Massimo D'Alema, the Italian foreign minister, seemed equal parts pleased and worried on Saturday morning - and there was good reason for both.
He was just back from Brussels, where European nations had finally agreed on a substantial peacekeeping force for Lebanon, and Kofi Annan, the United Nations secretary general, had singled out Italy for praise in making the force a reality.
While France vacillated, Italy consistently said it would send 2,000 to 3,000 troops - and even offered to lead the force to tamp down further fighting by Israel and Hezbollah.
But Mr. D'Alema's pleasure in Italy's newly assertive role in Europe seemed dampened by the real dangers. In 1983, 241 Americans and 58 French peacekeepers were killed in Lebanon in a bombing of multinational barracks.
This new deployment will come within the complicating context of war in Iraq and a far greater threat of terrorism.
"It's clear this is a risky mission," Mr. D'Alema, 57, a former Italian prime minister who took the foreign portfolio when the center-left coalition won elections here in April, said in an interview in his office. "Also because in the region a new protagonist has grown in popularity compared to the experience of the past. This is fundamentalism, terrorism based on fundamentalism. It's clear. The enemy is less easy to predict."
Italian troops will begin deploying to Lebanon as early as Tuesday, he said.
Mr. D'Alema said he understood the hesitations of the French, who he said had a more complicated history in the region than Italy.
"Our country doesn't have a colonial past" in that region, he said. "Our presence in Lebanon will not be viewed as interference, as a pretense to taking command.
"Certainly the French have greater reasons for worry," he said. "And it's understandable. This is part of their past, quite aside from the attack. They have always played a part in Lebanese affairs. They have friends and enemies in Lebanon. Us, no. We don't have enemies in Lebanon."
Broadly speaking, Mr. D'Alema said he saw the peacekeeping effort not merely as a way to preserve a so-far-shaky truce between Israel and Hezbollah, the Shiite guerrilla group, but as part of a comprehensive plan to stabilize the region.
That plan, he said, should move toward a solution in resolving territorial disputes between the neighbors there and, as the Italian prime minister, Romano Prodi, has stressed, in moving toward a solution between Israel and the Palestinians.
He emphasized that disarming Hezbollah was a central goal of the deployment, and even if it was not carried out directly by peacekeepers, their presence would aid the Lebanese Army in achieving the goal.
If Hezbollah does not comply, he said, "they will find themselves not only in conflict with Israel, something that gives them a certain popularity, they will find themselves in conflict with the entire world, with the United Nations."
In helping nudge Europe toward an agreement on the peacekeepers, Italy also seems to have found favor with both Israel and the United States, which strongly pushed for the force. A key question for the new Italian government - which is more oriented toward Europe than was the government of the former prime minster, Silvio Berlusconi - has been whether Italy and the United States will maintain their traditionally strong relations.
In recent days, those ties seem to have found some new diplomatic glue over Lebanon, even though unhappiness over Washington's unilateral march to war in Iraq persists.
"While, let's say some years ago, Bush could think he only needed to recruit some 'willing' countries, now they realize that they need the E.U.," Mr. D'Alema said.
"We showed we have some weight in Europe," he added. "And we want to use that for communal