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Israel's Olmert Calls for Peace Treaty With Lebanon


Three weeks after the end of the war in Lebanon, Israel is extending an olive branch to its neighbor to the north. But there appears to be little chance of a permanent peace between the two countries any time soon.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says that, after the month-long war in Lebanon, it is time to make peace.

He called for Lebanon's prime minister to shake hands, sign a peace treaty and end the hatred between the two countries. Mr. Olmert was speaking to students on the first day of the school year in Ma'alot, a town hit hard by Hezbollah rocket attacks.

Hezbollah, an Islamic militant group the State Department says is a terrorist organization based in South Lebanon, fired nearly 4000 rockets at northern Israel during the war. But Mr. Olmert says, now there is an opportunity for reconciliation.

"I hope that day comes soon," he said, adding that Israelis and Lebanese alike yearn for peace.

But Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev says there will never be peace until Hezbollah is disarmed.

"We have to have a situation, where we do not see those lorries coming from Syria, full of Iranian missiles, full of Iranian rockets," he said. "That will just make Hezbollah strong again. That is not good for Lebanon; it is not good for Israel. We have got to have a ceasefire that contains a package of elements to make sure Hezbollah is never again allowed to reassert itself as this force that can dominate the agenda."

Last week, Prime Minister Olmert and U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan said they hoped the U.N.-mediated ceasefire that ended the war could be the basis for a long-term peace agreement. But Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora reacted coolly, saying Lebanon will be the last Arab country that signs a peace treaty with Israel.

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