IT won't seem much like August in Brussels today when there will be an unaccustomed flurry of high level meetings for the time of the year. The topic is UN resolution 7001 and the provision of peacekeeping troops on the ground in Lebanon by EU countries. It is hardly a secret that EU members are dragging their feet because, they say, of uncertainty about the rules of engagement. France, which took the lead with the US in drafting the resolution, and therefore presumably knew about those rules, has mysteriously reduced its commitment from an expected 3'000 to about 500. Italy has offered to take France's place as lead nation and has asked for today's meetings to see what the others are willing to do. First thing this morning high-level officials will foregather; later in the morning it will be the turn of Ambassadors; and at 3pm Foreign Ministers of the EU will meet. The importance of this sequence of meetings has been underlined by the expected attendance of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. One diplomat said yesterday that he “could not imagine” that Mr Annan would travel to Brussels only to hear what he has “already been said” in New York. The need for a significant EU presence in the UN peacekeeping force has been underlined by the refusal of Israel (and the United States, of course) to agree to Malaysia's and Indonesia's offer to send troops because those countries do not recognise Israel.


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