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Iran Calls for Cease-Fire, Prisoner Exchange in Israel-Lebanon Conflict


Iran's foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, has called for a cease-fire and a prisoner exchange between Israel and the Lebanese militia Hezbollah.

Mottaki made the statement after talks in Damascus with Syria's vice president, Farouk al-Sharaa. Iran and Syria are the main backers of Hezbollah.

Syria's ambassador to the United States told VOA Persian service that Israel should accept what he called a "fair offer" of a prisoner exchange with Hezbollah.

The militant group has offered to swap two kidnapped Israeli soldiers for an unspecified number of Arab prisoners.

In Beirut, French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin met his Lebanese counterpart, Fouad Siniora, and called for an end to fighting. France traditionally has close ties to Lebanon.

United Nations envoy Vijay Nambiar says there have been "some promising first efforts" on reaching a cease-fire in his talks in Lebanon. He says he will take to Israel some "concrete ideas" on ending the fighting.

Earlier Friday, British Prime Minister Tony Blair called for the deployment of international forces along the Israel-Lebanon border to stop cross-border attacks.

Mr. Blair spoke in St. Petersburg, after meeting with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the sidelines of the Group of Eight summit.

Israel says it is too early to consider sending such a force to the border area.

EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels are considering a draft resolution that calls for a de-escalation of the fighting and urges Israel not to act in a "disproportionate" manner.

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