European Union officials say member states have pledged nearly seven thousand troops for the expanded United Nations peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on Friday in Brussels that he has asked France to lead the force until February 2007, and then Italy will take command.
Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi says Italian troops could leave for Lebanon as early as next Tuesday. The Italian cabinet is scheduled to meet on Monday to approve the deployment.
EU foreign ministers met today in Brussels to discuss the U.N. force. Mr. Annan said European soldiers will form the core of the force.
He said several Muslim countries have offered troops. Israel says it opposes the participation of countries that do not have ties to the Jewish state.
A UN resolution on ending the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah calls for up to 15-thousand U N troops, alongside an equal number of Lebanese soldiers.
French President Jacques Chirac said today that the peacekeeping force does not need 15-thousand troops. He called that number excessive.
France is offering two thousand soldiers. Italy has offered up to three thousand troops.