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Europe Offering Bulk of U.N. Force

"We're putting in the assets required to get the job done -- no more and no less," Annan told reporters here in response to questions about Chirac's statement. He added that "15,000 are going to deploy."

U.N. plans call for the first 3,500 troops to reach Lebanon in about a week, but Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja said Friday that the remaining European forces are unlikely to reach the country for another two to three months.

It could be several more months after that before the entire force is fully operational, according to U.N. officials.

In addition to Italy and France, Spain has offered about 1,000 troops, and Poland said it will send 500. Finland, Denmark, Germany, Hungary and Greece each have promised small numbers of personnel.

Approximately 2,000 U.N. peacekeeping troops are in southern Lebanon and along the Israeli border as part of UNIFIL, which was created in 1978.

The United States and Britain have refused to provide ground troops, saying theirs are already overtaxed in Iraq and Afghanistan. President Bush has said the U.S. military will provide communications, logistics and intelligence assistance.

Britain is offering two AWACS communications and surveillance planes, six Jaguar combat jets, a frigate and use of a British base in Cyprus for staging, according to the country's U.N. ambassador, Emyr Jones Parry.

Chirac on Friday continued to defend the delay in his decision to make a significant contribution to the peacekeeping force. While France was instrumental in writing the U.N. cease-fire resolution and initially said it would send 2,000 troops to southern Lebanon, Chirac drew domestic and international criticism when he then offered only about 400 soldiers.

"It would have been utterly irresponsible to take a decision that would jeopardize the lives of French troops without having the guarantee that they would be deployed under optimal conditions from the point of view of their safety," Chirac told reporters during a joint appearance at the Elysee Palace with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. "I don't know how I would have been judged if I had decided irrationally without thinking about a minimum of guarantees."

Annan said the United Nations has adjusted some of its rules of engagement for the peacekeepers to meet concerns that the troops be authorized to shoot to defend themselves and civilian populations under what could be murky circumstances.

"Troops are not going in there to disarm -- let's be clear," he said. "Disarming Hezbollah cannot be done by force. It has to be political agreements among the Lebanese."

At the same time, Annan warned during the closed meeting with the European foreign ministers that peacekeepers "may well find themselves engaged in military action at the tactical level," according to a copy of his address. He cited as an example a hypothetical situation in which "combatants, or those illicitly moving weapons, forcibly resist a demand from them, or from the Lebanese army, to disarm."

Staff writer Colum Lynch at the United Nations and researcher Corinne Gavard in Paris contributed to this report.

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