As UNIFIL is seeking to add 3,500 troops to its existing  2,000-strong contingent within 10 days,  the United Nations was urging European countries Friday to  provide troops for the peacekeeping force. The Beirut government  moved ahead with its deployment, begun a day earlier.

, , and have all offered troops as part of the expanded UN force to help shore up the tenuous ceasefire

"It’s very important that Europe now steps forward," Deputy UN  Secretary General Mark Malloch Brown said Friday. "The next few days  are going to be very challenging to make sure that we meet this  commitment to 3,500 troops, or 7,000 boots on the ground in 10 days  from now."    He said that there was a need to deploy a balanced  European-Muslim force that would be acceptable to both and  .

"We said before that a European-Muslim force would be  preferable because of both groups’ interest in this situation.. It would provide a legitimacy that satisfies both  sides to this conflict," Malloch Brown said   

Israel has made clear it would not accept countries with which  it has no diplomatic relations — such as Muslim-majority Malasia and Indonesia. Israel’s UN envoy, Dan Gillerman, said Friday his government objects to including countries that do not have diplomatic relations with Israel in the force.

But Malasia’s Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar dismissed Gillerman’s remarks, saying: "We’re going to be on Lebanese territory … we’re not going to be on Israeli territory."

US President George W. Bush said he hoped France  would  reconsider its decision to send much fewer than it had promised, and dispatch more troops, noting that "there  have been different signals coming out of .France"    A British newspaper, The Independent, accused France of failing to honor an  unspoken deal to provide some 3,500 soldiers for south to form the backbone of the UN force and encourage others to contribute.

The scope of the force and its rules of engagement were believed to be the major stumbling blocks for European nations, but Malloch  Brown said countries now had full details and should be ready to  decide on a role.

In Rome, the cabinet gave its approval in principle to the deployment of Italian troops, but Prime Minister Romano Prodi  declined to give any firm commitment on numbers saying the matter  had "not yet been examined".

The 28-year-old UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and the  extra troops will be charged with policing the fledgling ceasefire  between Hezbollah and until the full 15,000 peacekeepers  stipulated by the Security Council resolution can be found and  deployed.