EU defense cuts erode peackeeping mission in Lebanon

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LONDON — The United Nations peacekeeping force in Lebanon, amid
pressure to cut national defense budgets, was preparing to undergo a

Diplomats said a range of European Union countries were preparing to
reduce their contingents in the UN Interim Force in Lebanon over the next

Peacekeeping troops with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) patrol an area near Marjayoun. /Ali Dia/AFP/Getty Images

The diplomats said at least three NATO contributors to the UN force were expected to withdraw a major part of their personnel.

“Everybody in NATO is downsizing, and this mission is clearly
a target for budget cuts,” a diplomat said.

On April 26, Spain said it would reduce its contingent in UNIFIL by 20 percent. Spanish Defense Minister Pedro Morenes said the withdrawal would take place in 2012 amid the assessment by Madrid that it has completed its mission in Lebanon.

“This year, we will reduce our military presence by 20 percent,” Morenes said. “And in 2013, we will consider with the allies the possibility of leaving forces, which is actually able to continue managing the Lebanese armed forces, but reduced in size. I believe we accomplished the mission.”

Diplomats said France and Italy were also considering deep cuts in their
contingents. They said the EU states were coordinating their moves to avoid
the impression of a collapse of UNIFIL, which at its height contained 13,500

UNIFIL has sought to block Hizbullah activities in southern Lebanon and
prevent unauthorized weapons shipments to the country. On April 27, the
Lebanese Navy, trained by UNIFIL, stopped a ship found to contain weapons
and destined for neighboring Syria.

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