United Nations, N.Y. — A small, but meaningful step in the right direction.
This is how many diplomats here describe the expected decision, by the United Nations Security Council Feb. 24 to increase the United Nation's peacekeeping forces in southern Lebanon from 6,000 to 7,000 men.
With an additional 1,000 men, UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Forces In Lebanon) should be able to police more efficiently the buffer zone between the Israeli-backed Christian militias in the south and the Palestine Liberation Organization-controlled area in the north.
This might encourage thousands of people who fled the area for fear of being shelled, to return to their native villages and to resume their normal lives, according to UN sources.
The additional troops are expected to come from France, Nigeria, perhaps Peru , Belgium, and Ghana.
When the Lebanese government first took the idea of strengthening UNIFIL to the Security Council last December, the Soviet Union would not hear of it. At the time the PLO was not interested in tightening the sieve through which it was able to periodically sneak its guerrilla fighters inside Israel. More recently the PLO has put a halt to its infiltration attempts against Israel for fear that Israel might be tempted to invade southern Lebanon on a massive scale and deal a major blow to the Palestininan war machine. The UN forces are now seen by the PLO and by Syria as a shield against Israel.