After days of deliberations, the Lebanese cabinet and Hezbollah representatives agreed that Hezbollah members would not have to disarm, but must avoid carrying weapons in public.  Although this decision violates the week-old UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which establishes an arms free zone south of the Litani River in southern Lebanon, the UN is still preparing its peacekeeping force to deploy within the 10 day deadline.

The question of Hezbollah’s disarmament has been one of the main setbacks to the deployment of a peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon.  In accordance with resolution 1701, if Hezbollah does not disarm, the peacekeeping force cannot effectively do its job.  

U.S. Secretary of State Condolezza Rice clarified the responsibilities of the UN force.  Thursday she told USA Today, “"I don’t think there is an expectation that this [UN] force is going to physically disarm Hezbollah."  

Upon international demands to do so, Rice expects Hezbollah to give up their weapons voluntarily. She added that the peacekeepers are there to help the Lebanese enforce the arms embargo as outlined in resolution 1701 and prevent Hezbollah from rearming.  

There have also been setbacks concerning the members of the international force and the type of battalions suitable for the various roles required to carry out the resolution.  

Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown told reporters after a three-hour closed-door meeting with potential donor countries, "We have it in quantitative terms, but the issue is … which battalions can we get there in the timeline required? Are they the right battalions with the right skills and equipment, and do they represent a multilateral enough group of countries?"

Most of the troops will come from south Asia, including up to 2,000 from Bangladesh, 600-1,000 from Malaysia, Nepal and Indonesia, which will also include an engineering company.  Germany offered police, customs agents, aircraft and ships Thursday to work with the UN force to prevent arms from entering by way of land from Syria or by sea.  

Italy hesitates to send troops until the UN gives specific details for engagement that should already be worked out under the mandate, according to the office of Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi.  Prodi requested “a clear mandate, without any ambiguity and with very precise rules of engagement, for the soldiers who will be deployed."

Although France offered only 200 troops, President Jacques Chirac confirmed to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan that France would  uphold its promise to command the force until February and help maintain the 1,700 troops in the region.  

Currently there are 2,000 UNIFIL troops in southern Lebanon.  Three-thousand five hundred troops will be added within the next 10 days.  

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