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Israel and France discuss ideas for troop pullout from Lebanon

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JERUSALEM, July 1 (JTA) — Israeli Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai has discussed ideas for a gradual Israeli pullout from southern Lebanon with his French counterpart. Mordechai raised the issue in a meeting last week during the International Air Show in France. “I am continuing my efforts to explore all ways to reach an agreement in Lebanon,” Mordechai told reporters Tuesday after appearing before the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
Earlier in the week, Israeli media reported that Mordechai had proposed the stationing of a French-led multinational force to gradually replace the Israeli presence in southern Lebanon. However, in his address before the committee, he spoke in more general terms about an understanding with the Lebanese army and government that would have French or American backing. Under such an arrangement, “the Lebanese army and the Lebanese government will grapple with terrorism and will deploy in South Lebanon.” France was a key player in helping to end the cross-border fighting last year between Israel and the Islamic fundamentalist Hezbollah group. France is a co-chair, along with the United States, of the five-nation monitoring group of the cease-fire understandings. In a separate development, the Israeli army reported Tuesday that Israeli paratroopers operating in the eastern sector of the southern Lebanon security zone killed a Hezbollah fighter in a fire fight. No Israeli troops were injured.

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