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Lebanon's Army to Deploy in South with Symbolic Force
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The Lebanese army will deploy in south Lebanon Wednesday with a symbolic force, a political source in Beirut was quoted by Israeli local newspaper Ha'aretz.

This will be the first time in more than two decades that the Lebanese army has positioned itself along the border with Israel.

Meanwhile, a UN peacekeeping official said that the Lebanese army will begin to deploy Thursday in areas south of the Litani River where the Israeli army has withdrawn.

The deployment was decided in a meeting attended by representatives from Israel and Lebanon as well as the UNIFIL peacekeeping force, which also mulled the concrete program of troop movement, the official added.

Describing the meeting as a constructive one, the official said that "we were working hard to get the (UN Security Council) resolution implemented."

It was the second such three-way session since at the border crossing point Ras Naquora since the UN resolution was adopted.

The UN resolution, unanimously adopted by the Security Council on Friday, calls for Israel's withdrawal and authorizes an increase of the existing UN force in Lebanon to 15,000 troops to help Lebanese troops take control of south Lebanon as Israel withdraws.

Lebanon and Israel approved UN-brokered ceasefire after over 1,000 Lebanese and about 150 Israelis have been killed during the 33 days of fighting, which was erupted on July 12 following the abduction of two Israeli soldiers by Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas.

Cost for Lebanon

Lebanese refugees are flooding back to their homes, and workers have begun rebuilding the shattered country.

The Centre for Economic Research in Beirut predicts repair and reconstruction costs will rise above US$7 billion.

In the southern port of Tyre Wednesday workers started digging a mass grave for more than 100 unidentified people killed during the war.

Hospital officials said the bodies would be buried unless relatives claimed them. Seventy-two corpses were buried in the same place on July 21, to clear overflowing hospital morgues.
Relief agencies are trying to assist refugees who have returned to the area, as well as up to 120,000 people who remained south of the Litani River, some only 20 kilometers from the Israeli border, during the war.

"We've made it as far as Rmeish but there are still other villages further along that haven't been reached," said David Orr, spokesman for the UN World Food Programme (WFP).

During the conflict, the village was cut off, with no fuel to pump water from the well, forcing people to drink pond water at one stage.

"In the town of Aita al-Shaab, 90-95 percent of the town has been flattened," he said. "They had been shelled from over the border and then when the Israelis came into Lebanon they continued to pound it with tanks and airstrikes."

Fears have also been raised of a possible ecological disaster sparked by the conflict.

Up to 30,000 tons of oil leaked out into the Mediterranean after Israeli jets hit storage tanks at the Jiyyeh plant south of Beirut.

Oil already coats the Lebanese coastline in several places and Wednesday Cypriot Minister of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environment Fotis Fotiou warned it could float to other parts of the Mediterranean.

"Maybe at this moment we have not seen oil spill in our waters but we do care about the ecological catastrophe already caused in the area," he said.

"We must not forget the Mediterranean is a closed basin and sooner or later the ecological catastrophe will affect us too."

Fotiou asked Finnish Minister of Environment, whose country holds rotating presidency of the European Union, to convene a special meeting to tackle the issue.

Israeli reaction

Despite the widespread devastation wreaked in Lebanon, many Israelis are unhappy with their nation's lack of success in the war.

In the aftermath of the fighting both sides rushed to claim victory.

Yet 66 percent of Israelis polled by the Maariv newspaper believed no one won the war.

Another poll published Wednesday in the Yedioth Aronoth daily showed that 41 percent believe Prime Minister Ehud Olmert should resign, while 57 percent want Defence Minister Amir Peretz to go.

Except for Israel's ongoing conflict with the Palestinians, the nation suffered heavier civilian casualties in the Lebanon conflict than in any other fighting since the war at the creation of the Jewish state in 1948.

And the fighting may not yet be over with Israeli army chiefs Wednesday quoted as saying they are prepared to keep troops in southern Lebanon for "months," if it takes that long for an international peace-keeping force to deploy.

(Xinhua News Agency China Daily August 17, 2006)

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