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Lebanon Truce May Unravel, Warns UN
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The United Nations Sunday warned the week-old truce between Israel and Hezbollah could easily collapse, a day after it condemned an Israeli raid on the guerrillas in Lebanon as a violation.

Senior UN envoy Terje Roed-Larsen said the truce that halted the 34-day war which claimed 1,183 lives in Lebanon and 157 Israelis had provided the Lebanese Government with a good chance to extend its authority over all of the country.

"We also do believe that unfortunately there is a tilting edge where things very easily within the next weeks or months can slide out of control," Roed-Larsen told reporters in Beirut.

"This is why it's so important that all parties concerned exercise utmost restraint in this situation in order to give the Lebanese army the possibility of deploying fully along all borders of Lebanon, and particularly in the south, and also to allow the international community to provide troops."

A 30,000-strong force is envisaged for south Lebanon, made up of Lebanese and UN troops.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on Saturday Israel's commando raid on a Hezbollah stronghold deep in Lebanon had violated the truce that went into effect on August 14.

Israel said the operation, in which commandos were airlifted into the area by helicopter, was defensive and designed to disrupt weapons supplies to Hezbollah from Syria and Iran.

It denied it had violated the UN truce resolution, which allows it to act in self-defence, and accused Hezbollah of doing so by smuggling weapons.

One Israeli soldier was killed and two wounded when the commandos clashed with Hezbollah guerrillas near the village of Bodai, 26 kilometers from the Syrian border.

Hezbollah denied it had suffered any casualties after security sources in Lebanon said three guerrillas were killed.

The Lebanese Government vowed to crush any attempt on the Lebanese side to breach the truce, saying anyone attacking Israel would be considered a traitor.

"The army will be very tough in dealing with such an issue," Lebanese Defence Minister Elias al-Murr told a news conference.

"Any rocket fired from Lebanon will benefit Israel," he said, suggesting such an incident would provide a pretext for the Jewish state to attack Lebanon.

The minister said he was confident Hezbollah would stick to the truce and not try to rearm.
Murr said the army now controlled the entire border with Syria and would crack down on arms shipments. "There is no flexibility on arms smuggling," he said.

Israeli reconnaissance planes flew over Lebanon Sunday. Witnesses and Lebanese security sources said high-altitude flights covered virtually the whole country, from its wartorn south to close to the border with Syria in the north and east.

(China Daily August 21, 2006)


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