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UN Security Council Calls Urgent Meeting on Mideast


The United Nations Security Council plans to meet Friday to discuss escalating violence involving Israel, Lebanon-based guerrillas and the Palestinians.

The urgent meeting was scheduled in response to calls from the Lebanese government.

United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan says he is sending a three-member team to the Middle East to assess the situation there.

In Washington, a State Department spokesman, Sean McCormack, said the U.S. supports the efforts of the U.N. team. The United States also called upon the governments of Syria and Iran to pressure Hezbollah into releasing two kidnapped Israeli soldiers.

The European Union's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, also announced Thursday that he is planning to travel to the region. EU officials are urging all parties to respect international humanitarian law.

The Arab League has scheduled an emergency meeting of foreign ministers in Cairo on Saturday.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has warned of the possibility that Israel's attacks could lead to a regional war.

Russia and France say the Israeli attacks are "disproportionate." Russia also expressed concern about the suffering of Lebanese and Palestinian civilians. A spokesman for British Prime Minister Tony Blair called for restraint.

Amnesty International says militants and the Israeli and Lebanese governments must work to end attacks against civilian targets.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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