EU defence ministers agree to help Lebanon build its army
Meeting concludes in Finnish Lapland
The European Union has agreed to offer aid to Lebanon in building its defence forces and security sector. At their unofficial meeting at the Levi resort in Kittilä in Finnish Lapland on Tuesday, the defence ministers of the EU countries gave a green light to such plans.
EU High Representative Javier Solana said at a press conference at the conclusion of the meeting that an EU delegation would go to Lebanon immediately to assess how the EU might help in the building of Lebanese society - in the development of the country's police and border control, for instance.
Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora has asked Solana for EU aid.
The EU foreign ministers had previously decided that nearly 7,000 peacekeeping soldiers would be deployed in Lebanon. Finland is sending a force of 212.
During their two-day meeting in Levi, the 17 ministers of defence also discussed the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
A second round in the Congolese election is to be held on October 29th, and the result should be ready at the end of November. An EU-supported United Nations operation is expected to end after that.
France has suggested that the EU forces could stay in the country longer if the UN requests it. Germany, which heads the operation, insisted in Levi that the forces should withdraw in November as scheduled.
Solana insisted that there are no differences on the timetable, and he does not expect the violence linked with the first round of voting to affect the second round.
Both Solana and Finnish Defence Minister Seppo Kääriäinen called the Congo operation a success.
"It is not just a question of the EUFOR forces; we have been in Congo for years, and we will continue to be there economically and politically", Solana pointed out.
Previously in HS International Edition:
EU Defence Ministers praise Bosnian elections (3.10.2006)
Training commences for Finnish peacekeepers bound for Lebanon (