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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 August 2006, 22:18 GMT 23:18 UK
Israel urges rapid Lebanon force
Objects identified as external fuel tanks of an Israeli jet near the eastern Lebanese city of Baalbek
Lebanon is strewn with the debris of the recent war
Israel's foreign minister has urged rapid action on building an expanded UN peace force in Lebanon, warning of an "explosive" situation on the ground.

Time was running out for the UN ceasefire resolution to be applied, Tzipi Livni said after talks in Paris.

Her comments came as EU officials met in Brussels to discuss contributions.

Syrian President Bashar Assad has meanwhile indicated his opposition to the deployment of UN troops along the Lebanese-Syrian border.

Israelis give their views on whether the ceasefire with Lebanon will hold

Such a move would create animosity between the two countries, he told Dubai Television in an interview due to be broadcast later on Wednesday.

"This is an infringement on Lebanese sovereignty and a hostile position," he was quoted as saying.

The Israelis accuse Syria of supplying arms across the border to Hezbollah, including the rockets which were used to attack Israel throughout the month-long conflict.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has indicated he would not lift the air and sea blockade on Lebanon until international peacekeepers took up positions along the border.

Slow progress

Efforts to build the expanded 15,000-strong UN peace force for Lebanon have been dogged by delay and difficulty.

Map

The UN has been disappointed by the response so far from European nations, and says a bolstered force is urgently needed to enforce the fragile truce.

Many nations have been hesitant to commit troops until there is greater clarity about the force's mandate, particularly on the issue of disarming Hezbollah.

Ms Livni echoed the sense of urgency after her talks in France - which has offered only 200 extra personnel for the peace force.

"Time is working against those who would like to see this resolution applied," Ms Livni said.

"We are now in the most sensitive and explosive position."

Lina Atwi

Indications from Brussels were that the meeting of EU ambassadors would not result in a decision on numbers, but would pave the way for talks on Friday involving EU foreign ministers and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

The 10-day-old truce has already been tested by a number of skirmishes and an Israeli commando raid deep inside Lebanon.

In the latest incidents:

  • An Israeli soldier was killed and three others wounded on Tuesday evening by a landmine laid by Israeli forces in southern Lebanon, the army said

  • Israeli soldiers entered the Lebanese border village of Rub Thalatheen and seized two residents, the official Lebanese news agency said

  • There was artillery fire near the Shebaa farms area at the convergence of Lebanon, Syria and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights; Israel said it fired only onto its own territory near the border, as a deterrent, but Lebanese officials said Israeli troops had fired into a Lebanese village

Since the truce came into effect, Israel has maintained restrictions on air and sea access to Lebanon, bringing a plea from Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora for US intervention.

"The United States can support us in putting real pressure on Israel to lift the siege," he told reporters on Wednesday.




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Reaction from senior UN envoy and Lebanon's PM



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