WORLD / Middle East

Italy sees Iraq-style risk for UN force in Lebanon
Updated: 2006-08-03 17:18

ROME - The Lebanon conflict risks turning into another Iraq with foreigners volunteering to fight Israel and any international force getting bogged down in a guerrilla war with suicide bombers, Italy's foreign minister said.

"We risk having an Iraqi situation in Lebanon, with volunteers arriving from many countries to fight Israel and the West, and huge risks for soldiers who should be there to keep the peace," Massimo D'Alema told Italy's La Stampa newspaper.

Speaking in the interview published on Thursday about the conditions under which a multinational force with a U.N. mandate might operate, he said: "Everyone has difficulty with the idea of finding themselves exposed to an Iraq-style guerrilla war with suicide bombers and attacks".

"An international force arriving in Lebanon without the war having been stopped, with loads of civilians killed and a climate of hate, would be exposed to Iraq-style risks," he said.

U.S.-led forces which toppled Saddam Hussein have battled insurgents in Iraq, including foreign fighters, for three years.

But Lebanon has not suffered the same collapse of central authority as Iraq, retaining greater control over its borders and territory. And Hizbollah, which stresses its Lebanese identity, has said it does not need additional recruits.

Italy is one of many countries that has expressed readiness to contribute to a force charged with restoring order on Lebanon's southern border with Israel, the focus of an Israeli onslaught against Hizbollah for the last three weeks.

Italy's condition for sending troops, like that of other countries, is "the immediate cessation of hostilities followed by an agreement by both sides", D'Alema said.

The minister told parliament on Wednesday that Israel's vow to keep fighting Hizbollah until a strong international force is deployed to southern Lebanon was "unrealistic" and could undermine the very idea of sending peacekeepers there.