|www.helsinginsanomat.fi/english||print | close window|
President approves Lebanon force
Reservist recruiting to start next week
President Tarja Halonen gave her official ratification to the deployment of a Finnish peacekeeping force to Lebanon on Friday. The move came after Parliament overwhelmingly gave its approval to Finnish participation in the mission.
The UNIFIL operation will involve a Finnish company of up to 250 soldiers, concentrating on construction and clearance work.
The first of the Finns will arrive in Lebanon in mid-October, and the main force will be there in early November.
The Finns have a mandate that extends from October 2006 to the end of 2007, depending on the local and international situation at the time.
Preparations for compiling the force are already well under way.
Four out of five participants will come from the military reserves; call-up letters are to be sent later this week.
"Recruitment will not be a problem. There has already been interest shown, even though this is a group that requires a good measure of civilian professional skills", says Colonel Vesa Kangasmäki, head of the International Centre of the Finnish Defence Forces.
Training of special personnel and drivers will begin at the Pori Brigade in Säkylä in late September. The training will last two weeks and it will be tailored to the specific requirements of the upcoming task.
Finland hopes to form a common battalion with Ireland. If discussions bear fruit, the Finns would deploy a company of engineers, which would be protected by an Irish mechanised infantry company.
Some of the Finns' heavy equipment would be moved to Lebanon only after the forces arrive there.
The deployment will cost more than EUR 43 million. The UN will later pay for nearly EUR seven million of the costs.