Can Italy Play the Pied Piper?

Can Italy Play the Pied Piper?

"Italian troops are not going to Lebanon to disarm Hezbollah," Italy's foreign minister said Tuesday. Nobody is going to use force against a movement "considered by many Lebanese as patriotic" and "a sort of national resistance force," said Massimo D'Alema in an interview with the Italian magazine l'Espresso.

The August 11 U.N. Security Council resolution calling for a cessation of hostilities in Lebanon also said the Shiite militia should turn in their weapons. But D'Alema says the only "realistic solution" is for Hezbollah fighters to be integrated into the Lebanese regular armed forces - a process the minister estimates will take years to accomplish.

The interview followed Italy's tentative offer Monday to be the lead nation in the proposed U.N. stabilization force in southern Lebanon with some 3,000 of its troops, and D'Alema seemed to be sending a signal to Hezbollah that the U.N. force would not be seeking a confrontation over disarmament. Language to the same effect appears in the now-revised U.N. rules of engagement, as leaked to European newspapers. The 21-page document circulated to would-be European participants precludes searches for hidden weapons but says U.N. troops are authorized to disarm any groups they meet, using force if necessary.

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