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    No need for Russian troops in Lebanon yet - MP

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    MOSCOW, August 22 (RIA Novosti) - Russia could join a peacekeeping mission in Lebanon to enforce a ceasfire after hostilities between Hizbollah militants and Israel, but it should not send troops until the formalities are settled, a senior Russian MP said Tuesday.

    Before the truce was reached on August 14, Israeli military operations claimed the lives of around 1,000 Lebanese civilians, forced about a quarter of the country's population to flee their homes, and crippled large parts of the country's infrastructure. About 100 Israelis, most of them soldiers, also lost their lives in the fighting.

    "From a political point of view, we believe that Russia's participation in the [peacemaking] operation would be relevant," said Konstantin Kosachev, head of the international affairs committee in the State Duma, the lower house of parliament. "Deploying a Russian contingent [in Lebanon] would reaffirm Russia's readiness to take its share of responsibility for restoring peace in the region."

    Russia, a veto-wielding permanent UN Security Council member and one of the four international mediators in the broader Middle East conflict, had insisted on amendments to the U.S. and France-brokered UN ceasefire resolution to accommodate Lebanon's concerns.

    Kosachev said that security risks were still high in Lebanon, and peacekeepers could be dragged into resurgent hostilities as the peacekeeping mandate had not yet been formalized.

    Kosachev said it was still unclear whether a UN mission should seek to disarm Hizbollah or it should be the responsibility of 25,000 Lebanese troops to be deployed in the south formerly controlled by the radical group. He also said efforts to raise an international contingent had been too slow.

    The UN expects the international contingent in Lebanon would receive 3,500 more troops by August 28.

    A European Union Council official said Tuesday ambassadors from 25 European Union countries would gather in Brussels August 23 to discuss contribution to the UN contingent in Lebanon.

    Spain, Finland, Denmark, Lithuania, Germany, Greece, Portugal, Belgium and Greece have reportedly given their consent to contribute troops for the Lebanon mission. France has already deployed soldiers in Lebanon, and Italy has agreed to lead the international contingent.

    But occasional fighting has continued in Lebanon amid UN-supervised efforts to deliver humanitarian aid and restore infrastructure.

    On Saturday, Israel raided Lebanese territory claiming it had to intercept a convoy allegedly carrying weapons for Hizbollah from Syria. Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora slammed the raid, which resulted in a two-hour shootout, as a grave violation of the ceasefire and threatened to suspend the deployment of government troops if the UN failed to respond.

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