A senior U.N. official has urged governments to quickly commit troops for the new U.N. peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon.
Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown warned that delays could threaten the ongoing ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah. He said officials must convert promises into commitments -- and commitments into rapid troop deployments.
Malloch Brown spoke on Thursday at a meeting attended by officials from dozens of nations expected to participate in the international force in Lebanon.
Officials have been hoping France will contribute a large contingent. But French President Jacques Chirac said his country will immediately send only 200 troops to help bolster UNIFIL, the existing U.N. force in the region.
It is not clear if France will contribute more troops.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said her country will not contribute troops to the new U.N. force, but may offer naval support.
Meanwhile, Lebanese troops are deploying to the south, in line with a U.N. resolution on ending the Israel-Hezbollah war. Lebanese officials say the full deployment, of 15-thousand troops, will take 24 hours.
The Israeli military said it has transferred half of the (south Lebanon) areas under its control to UNIFIL. UNIFIL is to transfer control to the Lebanese army.
Lebanon's government has said it will not forcibly disarm Hezbollah. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said the international force is not expected to disarm the group.