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Lebanon peace force grows as more Italians arrive

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NAQOURA, Lebanon (CNN) -- More Italian troops arrived in Lebanon Sunday as part of the largest contingent of U.N. multinational forces to date.

Their mission is to bolster the fragile cease-fire between Israel and the Syrian- and Iranian-backed Hezbollah militants in Lebanon.

Sunday's deployment came a day after approximately 100 Italian marines, wearing the blue berets of U.N. forces, arrived on small motor boats and U.N. helicopters at the Lebanese port city of Tyre. (Lebanese welcome arrival of Italian peacekeepers -- 3:09)

The Italian troops deployed over the weekend were part of an Italian commitment that will eventually place 3,000 troops in Lebanon in support of U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon.

The troops will not be in the region to fight, but under their mandate will be responsible for defending themselves and any nearby civilians that are in danger, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said last week.

Meanwhile, Germany put on hold its planned naval deployment for the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Lebanon on Sunday, saying it had yet to receive a formal request from Beirut to take part, Reuters reported.

Germany had said it was prepared to patrol the Lebanese coast to prevent arms being delivered to Hezbollah guerrillas but had ruled out sending ground troops. Media reported on Friday that Germany was considering sending up to 2,000 service personnel, mainly from the navy, Reuters reported.

The Israel Defense Forces said Sunday that Israel may withdraw all its troops from Lebanon within two weeks if UNIFIL continues to deploy at the current pace.

Iranian president pledges support

Annan on Sunday said Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reaffirmed his support for implementation of U.N. Resolution 1701, which halted the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah.

Annan said the comments came at a meeting between the two men in Tehran as part of the U.N. chief's diplomatic trips across the Middle East to try to maintain the peace.

A day earlier, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki pledged Iran's full cooperation in implementing Resolution 1701, according to U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric. The resolution calls for UNIFIL to expand to 15,000 troops.

Ahmadinejad, meanwhile, refused to suspend his country's uranium enrichment program, but remained committed to finding a solution to the crisis, Annan said Sunday. (Full story)

"The president reaffirmed to me Iran's deep preparedness and determination to negotiate," Annan said at the news conference in Tehran. Annan's visit comes three days after Iran flouted a U.N. deadline to cease uranium enrichment.



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