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World digest: U.N. tries to reduce Israel-Lebanon tension

Thursday, August 5, 2010; A08

MIDDLE EAST

U.N. tries to reduce Israel-Lebanon tension

A day after Israeli and Lebanese forces exchanged fire in a clash that left four people dead, the commander of the United Nations peacekeeping force in south Lebanon invited officers from both sides for an unusual three-way meeting in a bid to avert an expansion of hostilities.

The group was scheduled to meet late Wednesday. Earlier in the day, the U.N. force confirmed that Israeli troops were operating inside Israeli territory when fighting erupted, dismissing Lebanon's claim that Israeli troops had crossed onto Lebanese soil.

Hostilities began Tuesday as Israeli troops worked to cut down a tree along the border in an area similar to where Israeli troops were ambushed by militants from the Lebanese militia Hezbollah in 2006. That attack prompted a month-long rocket war between Israel and the Islamist militia that killed hundreds and displaced thousands.

On Tuesday, Lebanese troops fired at the Israeli forces, and Israeli troops returned fire in combat that lasted about an hour. Two Lebanese soldiers, a Lebanese reporter and an Israeli reservist officer were killed. Israeli troops on Wednesday finished cutting down the tree.

-- Janine Zacharia

IRAN

Explosive thrown at leader's motorcade

An explosive was thrown at the motorcade of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in central Iran on Wednesday, witnesses said. But his office quickly denied any attack had taken place, saying a "firecracker" had gone off.

Witnesses described the incident as minor. One person was arrested, according to accounts posted on Iranian Web sites.

After the incident, Ahmadinejad gave a previously scheduled speech, which was broadcast live on state television. He appeared unhurt. Media reports said his car was about 100 yards from the site where the explosion occurred.

"On the path between the airport and stadium, while the convoy was crowded with people, there was suddenly a relatively loud sound, and some smoke," said a local reporter who was on the scene but asked to remain anonymous. "It did not even warrant Ahmadinejad's security team to act."

Iranian Web sites initially reported that the explosive device was thrown by a man standing in a crowd that lined the streets of the city of Hamedan on the route to the stadium where Ahmadinejad was scheduled to speak.

-- Kay Armin Serjoie and Thomas Erdbrink

AFGHANISTAN

Petraeus continues limits on force

The commander of NATO and U.S. forces in Afghanistan issued updated rules of battle Wednesday, repeating his predecessor's curbs on use of air power and heavy weapons when civilians are at risk but stressing the right of troops to defend themselves.

The guidance comes after complaints from troops that rules laid down by the former commander, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, were putting them in danger and giving the Taliban an advantage.

There had been speculation that Gen. David H. Petraeus -- who took over from McChrystal a month ago -- might ease the rules. But Petraeus also emphasized that protecting the Afghan people was the top priority.

-- Associated Press

Medvedev returns to wildfire crisis: Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Wednesday broke off his vacation and ordered an investigation into the wildfires that have swept across the country, blaming local and military authorities for mismanagement. Back in Moscow, Medvedev ordered a meeting of senior safety officials, including the minister of defense. He said criminal cases would be opened into officials who had not fulfilled their duties.

Judge releases terrorism suspect: A Canadian indicted in the United States on charges he supplied al-Qaeda with weapons was freed Wednesday after more than four years in jail after a judge refused to extradite him to the United States. Abdullah Khadr, 29, has been held in Canada since his December 2005 arrest. He is wanted in the United States for allegedly buying weapons for al-Qaeda and plotting to kill Americans abroad.

-- From news services

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