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Lebanese Army to Begin Deploying to South as Part of Cease-Fire Deal

Lebanon says its army will start deploying 15,000 soldiers to the Litani River before the end of this week. The move is part of a U.N.-imposed cease-fire this week to end more than a month of fighting between Israel and Hezbollah militants in southern Lebanon.

The U.N. Security Council resolution that set in motion a cease-fire between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon Monday, calls for a joint Lebanese-international force of up to 30,000 troops. The joint force is to be stationed south of the Litani River, about 30 kilometers from the border, to keep Hezbollah rockets out of striking range of Israel.

Mohammad Chattah, a senior advisor to Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora, says the first international troops could begin arriving within days.

"We were hoping to have the advance battalions before the end of this week, so we are talking about days, not weeks," he said.

Defense Minister Elias Murr told Lebanese television the army would start deploying north of the Litani River this week to be ready.

But he says the Lebanese Army will not disarm Hezbollah fighters as he expects the Shi'ite militia to leave the south once the international force is in place.

The U.N. Security Council cease-fire resolution specifically calls for all militias in Lebanon to be disarmed.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah on Monday vowed his fighters would not be forced to disarm by intimidation or pressure.

Speaking on Hezbollah-owned Al-Manar television, Nasrallah says he supports the deployment of the Lebanese Army south of the Litani River, but he questioned whether it would be able to defend the country.

The Hezbollah chief says his fighters have won a "strategic historic victory " over Israeli in the 34 days of fighting.

President Bush Monday called the conflict a defeat for Hezbollah - a U.S.-designated terrorist group. He says the cease-fire and international peacekeeping force will remove control of southern Lebanon from the Shi'ite group.