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Israel Could Complete Withdrawal By Saturday

Israel Could Complete Lebanese Withdrawal By Saturday – UN Force Commander

New York, Sep 26 2006 11:00AM

The commander of United Nations peacekeepers in Lebanon held talks with senior Lebanese and Israeli military officers today with a view to completing by Saturday Israel’s withdrawal from all the positions it occupied in its northern neighbour during last month’s fighting with Hizbollah.

“We had a constructive meeting today,” UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) Commander Major-General Alain Pellegrini said after the talks, which discussed both Israel’s withdrawal and the deployment of the Lebanese army in the area.

“It is my belief that with the necessary cooperation by both parties we should see the IDF (Israeli Defence Forces) leave South Lebanon by the end of this month,” he added.

Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the 34 days of fighting between Israel and Hizbollah, mandates strengthening UNIFIL to a maximum of 15,000 troops, and Secretary-General Kofi Annan has said it is generally understood that Israel will completely withdraw once the UN Force reaches 5,000, a step achieved last week, and the Lebanese army is ready to deploy at the full strength.

Maj.-Gen. Pellegrini has held regular talks with the parties, and last Friday he announced the Israeli withdrawal from two more border areas.

Ends

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