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Lebanese Troops Deploy South Across Litani River


Lebanese troops are deploying in the southern part of the country in line with a U.N. resolution on ending the month-long war between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas.

Soldiers in trucks, armored carriers and jeeps crossed the Litani River Thursday and moved south toward the Israeli border. Troops moved into Marjayoun, a mainly Christian town eight kilometers from the Israeli border that Israel has vacated.

The Israeli military said Thursday that it has already transferred half of the south Lebanon areas under its control to UNIFIL, the existing United Nations force in the region. UNIFIL is to transfer control to the Lebanese army.

Still at issue is whether Hezbollah will be disarmed.

The Lebanese government has said it will not forcibly disarm Hezbollah. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said the new international force is not expected to disarm Hezbollah.

The U.N. Security Council says Lebanon will deploy 15,000 troops in the southern part of the country, and they will work together with an international peacekeeping force of the same size.

In New York, nations expecting to participate in the peacekeeping operation are to meet at the U.N. today to discuss logistical details and the rules of engagement.

News reports say France, which will lead the international force, will decide on its troop level when the mission is clear.

The Paris newspaper Le Monde said France does not want to repeat the experience of previous missions. More than 70 French peacekeepers died in Bosnia in the 1990s.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

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