Malaysian troops arrive for U.N. duty in Lebanon
BEIRUT (Reuters) - One hundred Malaysian soldiers arrived in Lebanon on Tuesday to join a U.N. peacekeeping force monitoring a truce between Israel and Hezbollah guerillas in south Lebanon.
They are the first Malaysians to join the U.N. force, which was boosted under the terms of a U.N. Security Council resolution that ended Israel's 34-day war with Hezbollah in mid-August.
A military spokesman in Malaysia said a final contingent of 260 soldiers from the mainly Muslim country would follow on January 15.
Israel had initially objected to peacekeepers from countries that do not recognize the Jewish state, but later relaxed that stance.
Both Malaysia and neighboring Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, have now sent troops to Lebanon, although neither has diplomatic ties with Israel.
U.N. resolution 1701 authorized an increase in the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) by more than 13,000 troops from its previous level of 2,000. There are now more than 11,000 UNIFIL peacekeepers in Lebanon, a spokesman said.
Malaysia's Defense Minister Najib Razak has said his country is ready to increase the number of troops in Lebanon if the United Nations extends the Malaysian mandate beyond six months.
The Malaysian soldiers will be based in the town of Marjayoun near the Syrian border, he said.