Turkey to consider role in peacekeeping

(AP) - Turkey, NATO's only Muslim member, would consider playing a major role in a peacekeeping force in Lebanon, a Foreign Ministry official said Tuesday.

The official, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject, said Turkey would first want to see a strong U.N. mandate for the force that would define its role, where it served and its rules of engagement, reports Trend.

Top NATO and Middle Eastern officials, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, meet Wednesday in Rome to discuss possible solutions to conflict between Hezbollah and Israel, including a peacekeeping force that could be deployed on the Israeli-Lebanese border.

Turkey has close ties with both Israel and Arab countries and wide-ranging experience in international peacekeeping. It has led peacekeeping forces in Afghanistan and participated in missions in Bosnia, Kosovo and Somalia.

Lebanese Ambassador George Siam was quoted as saying that "we believe Ankara would be successful in such a mission." His remarks were printed in Tuesday's The New Anatolian newspaper.

The Foreign Ministry official said Muslim Turkey was a logical choice for a key role in such a force but cautioned that Turkey was also likely to demand a cessation of hostilities and broad international participation.

The official also said that discussions over the role of such a force were likely to be very difficult.

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