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Envoys From France, Turkey, Pakistan, Malaysia Meet on International Force


Envoys from several nations expected to contribute to an international force for Lebanon are meeting today (Wednesday) in Beirut to work out the details.

The envoys are from France, Turkey, Pakistan and Malaysia. A United Nations-brokered ceasefire took effect Monday in the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah.

Speaking in the Lebanese capital, France's foreign minister (Philippe Douste-Blazy) called on Israel to lift the air, naval and land blockade it imposed on Lebanon at the start of the war.

France is expected lead the 15-thousand-member international force that will join an equal number of Lebanese army troops in patrolling the border between Lebanon and Israel.

However, Israel's military chief of staff (Dan Halutz) has warned his country will stop withdrawing troops from Lebanon if the Lebanese army is not deployed to the south within days. He says Israeli troops could stay in Lebanon for months, if it takes that long to deploy international peacekeepers.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan told Israeli television Tuesday it could take months to deploy the full international force. Mr. Annan is in Jerusalem today meeting senior Israeli officials.

The United States says the peacekeeping force should be an urgent priority, and that months of delay are not acceptable

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