Tony Hotland, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The government has voiced strong objections to taking part in disarming Hizbollah as part of its mandate in the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon.

Defense Minister Juwono Sudarsono said Friday the government did not want its troops involved in the disarmament of either the militia group or Israeli forces in southern Lebanon.

He alluded to the dilemma for the world's most populous Muslim nation, where there has been overwhelming support for Hizbollah and the Lebanese government and condemnation of Tel Aviv.

"We need to know where our troops will be deployed to. We don't want to be assigned to disarm Hizbollah because that would be sensitive."

Juwono said the main concern for the peacekeeping forces would be neutralizing the weapons and rocket-launching sites, but this should be done by the Lebanese troops alone.

"We will back them up through the UNIFIL so our troops will not be directly involved with disarmament on the field ... What matters is to make UNIFIL and the Lebanese military as the only ones with arms, not Israeli troops or Hizbollah. But to be there, Indonesia doesn't want to be the executors," he said.

There would likely be a backlash from hard-line Islamic groups and Islamic-based political parties if Indonesian members of UNIFIL were involved in disarming the group.

Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda said there was no specific mention of Hizbollah in the UN Resolution 1701, which was enacted for a cease-fire and mandates the reestablishment of security in Lebanon.

"But countries who have responded to the UN's call for a peace-keeping force are asking for detailed jobs there. It's crucial because we don't want to deploy troops for missions that are politically not in accordance with our interests."

The UN is currently drawing up the rules of engagement for the peace-keeping force. Indonesia has committed to sending 1,000 troops in UNIFIL; a total of 3,500 new troops from UN members are expected to join the 2,000 UNIFIL troops already in Lebanon.

Juwono said the government allocated Rp 374 billion (US$40.2 million) from the revised 2006 state budget to finance the troops for the first two months of deployment.

"Afterwards, the UN will pay for everything. The money we spend will be reimbursed because it is predicted the UN's administrative and logistic system will be effective after 60 days," he said.
"People say funny things......."

Peter Kay