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Israel Puts on Hold Its Plan to Send More Troops Into Lebanon


Israeli government officials say they have put on hold plans for an expanded offensive in Lebanon, to give diplomats more time to organize an international peacekeeping force.

Members of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's Cabinet say the decision to delay the offensive was made early Thursday. Just hours earlier, Israel's military had been given a go-ahead to send more troops deeper into Lebanon, to confront Hezbollah militants who have fired thousands of rockets into Israel over the past four weeks.

Israeli officials say they hope for the success of a U.S.-led diplomatic campaign to form a robust international force that will curb Hezbollah's activities in southern Lebanon. But they add that Israel is ready to proceed with its military advance at any time.

At the White House, President Bush's spokesman Tony Snow said on Wednesday that the United States wants an end to the violence, and does not want an escalation of the fighting.

Israel's expanded offensive was intended to move Hezbollah guerrillas away from the border and farther into Lebanon, so their rockets would no longer be able to reach northern Israel.

At the United Nations, U.S. and French diplomats are said to be working hard to bridge their differences and agree on wording of Security Council resolution to end the Middle East conflict.

An Arab League delegation has called on Security Council to demand both an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of all Israeli troops in Lebanon. Israel says it will only withdraw when a robust international force, capable of exerting control over Hezbollah guerrillas' movements, is in place in southern Lebanon.

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, says a compromise resolution will take into account Lebanon's offer to send 15 thousand troops to patrol the border with Israel.

The leader of Hezbollah, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, says his group supports the deployment of Lebanese troops in the border region.

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

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