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(photo credit: AP)
Israeli over-flights of Lebanon cannot be considered a separate element of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, and all elements of the resolution need to be implemented, French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said Wednesday in what Israeli diplomatic officials viewed as a softening of the tone of France's objections to the flights.
"All parts of the resolution must be implemented, including the return of the kidnapped Israeli soldiers and preventing Hizbullah from rearming," Douste-Blazy was quoted as saying at a Paris press conference with visiting Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.
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Nevertheless, the French foreign minister called for a halt to the flights. Regarding UN Security Council Resolution 1701, Douste-Blazy said, "It's an important achievement we have to consolidate ... and ensure the respect of the embargo and - at the same time - a halt to the over-flights."
Livni defended the flights as a needed security precaution to watch movements of missiles from Syria to Lebanon. "The only reason for these flights is to get information," she said at the press conference, adding that the Syrian-Lebanese border remained open.
Douste-Blazy's tone, however, was markedly different then that of French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie, who has called Israel's over-flights of Lebanon "extremely dangerous," warning that peacekeepers could see them as hostile and fire in self-defense.
Following the press conference, Livni met French President Jacques Chirac and, according to Jerome Bonnafont, a Chirac spokesman, said the two discussed Israeli-Palestinian relations, Chirac's hopes for a "change of behavior" from Syria, and concern about Iran's nuclear ambitions.
Bonnafont said that Chirac pressed for a "quick solution" to the Shaba Farms issue. Israel has said that while it was in principle willing to discuss this issue with the Lebanese government, Syria would have to formally cede the area to Lebanon, something Damascus has been reluctant to do. The area was taken from Syria during the Six Day War.