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UN Envoys Hold Talks in Israel


Two senior United Nations diplomats are in Israel, continuing efforts to ensure the ceasefire now in effect in Lebanon does not unravel. Israel's prime minister has asked Italy to lead the U.N. force in Lebanon.

Israeli newspapers report that U.N. envoys Terje Roed-Larson and Vijay Nambiar are holding talks with Israeli officials about a prisoner swap between Israel and Hezbollah.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says his country wants Italy to lead the U.N. peacekeeping force in Lebanon. Israeli officials - including Tourism Minister Isaac Herzog - say they are upset that some European countries seem to be backtracking on the commitment to send troops to Lebanon.

"Some of the major proponents of the resolution [ceasefire resolution], such as France, have not yet delivered on a robust international force as was promised to Israel," said Herzog.

U.N. officials say they hope to finalize the "rules of engagement" for the peacekeepers in the next few days. A number of potential peacekeeping countries say they will not send troops, as long as the mission and the "rules of engagement" remain ill-defined.

Under the U.N. resolution designed to end fighting in Lebanon, a force of 15,000 peacekeepers is to assist the Lebanese army demilitarize southern Lebanon and help Lebanese troops stop the flow of weapons to Hezbollah militants.

However, so far, few countries have committed troops. Israel has expressed growing frustration over the matter. On Saturday, it carried out a commando raid on the eastern Lebanese city, Baalbek. The raid was condemned by U.N. officials and by Lebanon, who called it a violation of the ceasefire. Israeli officials say the raid was defensive and designed to stop weapons supplies to Hezbollah.

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