A battalion of Dutch soldiers has arrived in the Lebanon to serve with the peacekeeping forces deployed there.
SV UNIFIL Commander Major-General Emmanuel Erskine (on left) greeting Dutch officers in Beirut.
SV Dutch troops coming down aircraft steps.
SV Dutch troops come to attention and march off. (3 SHOTS)
SCU INTERIOR Erskine talking to senior Dutch officer and Dutch Ambassador to Lebanon. (2 SHOTS)
SV Erskine speaking at news conference.
ERSKINE: "We started off with eight battalions and the Iranian government decided to withdraw its battalion, followed by the withdrawal of the French battalion. The Secretary-General requested for increase -- for two battalions to replace the Iranians and the French. After all efforts, we were successful to secure the services of the Dutch, hence we have the Dutch battalion. The U.S. have increased their strength by a company and also the Fijians by a company. So with the Dutch battalion, we are almost complete -- not as complete as we would like, but there's not much that could be done, because there was no other response. With the Dutch here, our strength comes to about five thousand, eight hundred.
In January this year, the phased withdrawal of some French and Iranian troops attacked to UNIFIL began. Earlier, it had been feared that this reduction in number would lead to renewed fighting but, so far, this has not happened. Under a UN Security Council resolution, UNIFIL's mandate in Lebanon was extended in January for another five months. When the previous mandate expired, UNIFIL leaders pulled out thirteen hundred soldiers from the six thousand-strong forces. They were replaced by Dutch, Fijian and Nigerian soldiers.
Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved
Background: A battalion of Dutch soldiers has arrived in the Lebanon to serve with the peacekeeping forces deployed there. The Dutch contingent is made up of about three hundred army regulars and five hundred conscripts and they will replace French troops attached to the United nations Interim Force (UNIFIL)
SYNOPSIS: UNIFIL Commander, Major-General Emmanuel Erskine, was on hand at the airport in Beirut to greet the troops who arrived on Saturday (10 March). They will be based in the Southern Lebanese village of Haris. An advance party of Dutch troops took over from French troops there on February the 28th.
There has been controversy over the terms of the UNIFIL mandate, which does not provide for offensive action by its various troops. But Major-General Emmanuel Erskine is firmly opposed to using force in resolving what he regards as a political, rather than a military problem.