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Lebanon sends troops to its restive south

By Bill Varner
Saturday, July 10, 2010; A07

UNITED NATIONS -- Lebanon is sending as many as 5,000 additional soldiers to the country's south after clashes between civilians and United Nations troops and Israel's warning that Hezbollah is preparing for a new war there.

"Some measures had to be taken to make sure no such incidents take place in the future," Nawaf Salam, Lebanon's U.N. ambassador, said in an interview Friday, referring to three attacks on French peacekeeping troops since June 29.

The commander of the United Nations' 12,000 soldiers and civilian police in southern Lebanon appealed for calm this week in an open letter to the region's population. France called a meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Friday to receive a report.

"We wanted to emphasize the seriousness of the situation," Gerard Araud, France's U.N. ambassador, told reporters after the meeting. "We cannot accept obstacles to freedom of movement" of U.N. troops.

A statement adopted after the briefing said the members of the Security Council "strongly deplore" the clashes with peacekeepers and urge the Lebanese army to send reinforcements to the border area with Israel.

The tensions came as Israel said the Shiite Muslim Hezbollah militia, considered a terrorist group by the United States, is preparing for fighting. Hezbollah fought a month-long war with Israel in 2006.

The Israeli daily Haaretz said that on Thursday, Israel's army showed journalists previously classified aerial photographs of a unit of 90 Hezbollah militiamen operating in a village where they were storing weapons close to hospitals and schools.

-- Bloomberg News

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