ANKARA, Turkey – Turkey will send its first deployment of peacekeepers to Lebanon next week by dispatching about 260 soldiers to join the international force, private NTV television reported on Thursday.
The Turkish troops would be the first Muslim forces to deploy in Lebanon as part of the expanded U.N. peacekeeping operation there.
Turkey's Foreign Ministry would not immediately confirm the report, saying evaluations were still under way for the deployment. Turkish military officials were not immediately available for comment.
The engineer company of around 260 soldiers was expected to fly to Lebanon from Ankara on Tuesday, NTV said. Turkey was not expected to offer more land forces, but NTV said a Turkish frigate will depart on Friday to join international naval forces off the Lebanese coast.
The Turkish contingent will deploy outside the port of Tyre and help rebuild damaged bridges or roads, NTV said. The area is about 12 miles north of the Lebanese-Israeli border.
Another Muslim country, Indonesia, also is expected to deploy troops in Lebanon.
Turkey's parliament last month approved sending soldiers to help monitor the cease-fire between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas despite widespread public opposition.
Turkey's prime minister, a staunch supporter of sending peacekeepers to Lebanon, has assured the public that Turkish soldiers will be immediately withdrawn if asked to disarm the Hezbollah fighters based in southern Lebanon.
Turks, 99 percent of whom are Muslims, are wary of being drawn into fighting with fellow Muslims. Israel's 34-day clash this summer with Hezbollah and bombardment of Lebanon was extraordinarily unpopular here and throughout much of the Islamic world.