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Last Updated: Monday, 21 August 2006, 21:17 GMT 22:17 UK
Bush pledges $230m in Lebanon aid
Bulldozer clears rubble in Lebanon
Lebanon has begun the long task of reconstruction
President George W Bush has announced that the US is to boost its aid package to Lebanon to $230m (121m).

The money would be used to help rebuild Lebanese homes and infrastructure, he told reporters at the White House.

He also called for the quick deployment of a peacekeeping force to help uphold the week-old ceasefire between Israel and Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah.

In Italy, Prime Minister Romano Prodi said his country was willing to lead the planned force.

A UN resolution calls for 15,000 troops to be deployed to uphold the ceasefire, but some countries have offered fewer troops than expected and others have not yet made firm commitments.

France had been considered likely to lead the force and contribute up to 4,000 troops, but has so far offered only 200, saying it needed more information on the force's mandate.

President Bush called on the international community to designate a leader for the force and establish "robust" rules of engagement "as soon as possible".

French soldiers arrive in Lebanese port of Naqoura
A small number of French troops have arrived in Lebanon
Mr Prodi said the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, would make a decision by the weekend on Italy's offer. Lebanon and Israel have already given their support.

Italy has indicated it could offer up to 2,000 troops - the most substantial offer so far - but has not given a firm commitment.

President Bush said the US would do its part - giving help with logistical support, intelligence and command and control, although it is not contributing troops.

The new US aid package adds to a previous pledge of $50m.

It includes 25,000 tonnes of wheat, $42m to help equip the Lebanese army, and assistance in clearing an oil slick from a bombed power station.

'Optimism'

A week into the truce, the Israeli military said troops had shot at least three Hezbollah fighters after a group of armed men approached an Israeli position in "a threatening manner" near a village about 4km from Lebanon's southern border.

Two of the militants were later confirmed dead and a third injured, a military spokesman said.

The heavy feeling that in the echelons above us there is nothing but under-preparation, insincerity, lack of foresight and inability to make rational decisions, leads to the question - were we called up for nothing?
Israeli reservists' protest letter

In other developments, a senior UN envoy said he had held constructive talks with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.

Terje Roed-Larsen said there was "reason for optimism" that all parties would now fully respect the truce, and that he hoped Israel would lift its air and sea blockade of Lebanon gradually.

Mr Roed-Larsen was also due to meet the Israeli Defence Minister Amir Peretz and the army chief-of-staff Dan Halutz in Jerusalem.

On Sunday he warned that violations of the ceasefire could easily cause the situation to slip "quickly into the abyss of violence and bloodshed".

Reservists protest

Meanwhile, hundreds of Israeli army reservists have signed an open letter demanding a sweeping investigation into the conduct of the war.

Map

The letter, sent to Mr Peretz and Lt-Gen Halutz, accused Israeli military and political leaders of indecisiveness and changing the aims of the war.

"The heavy feeling that in the echelons above us there is nothing but under-preparation, insincerity, lack of foresight and inability to make rational decisions, leads to the question - were we called up for nothing?" the reservists said.

Smaller numbers of reservists held a protest march and set up a makeshift camp outside Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office in Jerusalem.

"I won't be part of this game of self-flagellation," Mr Olmert said during a tour of the town of Kiryat Shmona, which was heavily hit by Hezbollah rockets.

But he repeated a promise to launch an investigation into the conduct of the war, although he did not give details of its scope.


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President George W Bush's statement on US aid to Lebanon





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