Harper not keen to supply peacekeepers for Mideast mission

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said troops from Mideast nations, not Canadian soldiers, should staff a multinational peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he does notfavour sending Canadian troops to southern Lebanon as part of a multinational peacekeeping force,adding that countries in the area should be responsible for resolving the conflict.

Harper said it would not be Canada's "first choice to have Canadian or foreign troops" sent to enforce peace between Israel and Hezbollah. On Tuesday, Israeli Defence Minister Amir Peretzsaid Israelwouldbe willing to hand over control of a security zone in southern Lebanon to an international force.

Harper said any future ceasefire would be better enforced by the governments of the Middle Eastern countries.

The problem is that countries in the region, through either their incapacity or willing support, have allowed groups like Hamas and Hezbollah to arm and attack Israel, the prime minister said.

Harper has sided with Israel since military air strikes began in southern Lebanon, blaming the current crisis on the Hezbollah militant organization.

"I think what is important if we are going to resolve this problem in the long term is that we get governments in the region that are dedicated to peace and stability for all sides, and are prepared to deal with these kinds of extremist and terrorist security threats.

Harper said thatthe solution lies "in these sovereign states themselves."

Healso said efforts to evacuate Canadian citizens from Lebanon are winding down and will end soon. By the end of the operation, Foreign Affairs expects about 10,000 Canadians will have been moved out.