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Lebanese Army Deploys Along Israeli Border


The Lebanese Army is taking up positions along the Israeli border, after Israel withdrew, yesterday, from all but one post in the divided border village of Ghajjar.

The mood was festive as the Lebanese Army raised its flag in ceremonies along the border with Israel, in the Tallet Nabounee region.

Lebanese forces are to deploy in a number of other positions, in the coming hours, after United Nations peacekeeping troops officially hand them over.

Lebanese Army Commander General Michel Suleiman says his troops will quickly respond to any Israeli violation of the border. He says it is the job of the Lebanese Army to protect Lebanon.

This is the first time in nearly 40 years that Lebanese troops have held positions directly on the border with Israel.

U.N. spokesman Alexander Ivanko says Israeli troops still occupy one final position, in the divided border village, Ghajjar.

"Ghajjar is still the only area where they didn't pull out," he explained. "The rest of the areas they have pulled out and also the Lebanese Army is deploying, today."

The French commander of U.N. Forces, General Alan Pellegrini said yesterday he thought Israel would withdraw from Ghajjar by week's end.

Ivanko says that remains the goal.

"We're working on it. We expect the I.D.F. (Israeli Defense Force) to withdraw later this week," he said.

Half of Ghajjar is on the Lebanese side of the "blue line" which the United Nations drew after Israel evacuated southern Lebanon in June of 2000. Israeli forces occupied the other side of the village, which is territory Israel seized from Syria in the 1967 war.

Meanwhile, a top Hezbollah official says his group would resume attacks on Israel, if it violated the ceasefire.

Lebananese Information Minister Ghazi Aridi told the Associated Press a complete and comprehensive Israeli withdrawal is required.

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