(photo credit: AP [file])
Israel is stepping up diplomatic efforts to ensure that an international peacekeeping force is deployed in southern Lebanon as soon as possible. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni will arrive in New York Wednesday and meet with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to discuss the issue.
Jerusalem would like to see the force in place within a few days, to allow the IDF to begin pulling out from the area.
Deputy Premier Shimon Peres met with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Washington Tuesday and discussed the new multinational force.
After the meeting Peres told reporters outside the State Department he believed the deployment was "a matter of days," not weeks or months, as suggested in several media reports.
Peres called on the international community to support the rebuilding efforts in Lebanon, warning, "If the international community won't do it, then Iran will." Peres said it was the responsibility of the coalition that passed UN Security Council 1701 resolution to make sure it was implemented in full.
The US is also looking for ways to ensure that the resolution is implemented and that the Lebanese government acts to disarm Hizbullah, but there has been no decision to pressure Lebanon.
Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Welch, who returned to Washington from a shuttle mission to the Middle East, said Tuesday that the US did not want to condition financial aid to Lebanon on disarming Hizbollah, but added that the US would find it difficult to provide assistance to countries if it does not trust their governments.
Peres is in the US raising funds for the Israel Emergency Campaign launched by the North American Jewish Federations. The campaign's goal is to raise $300 million to be immediately given to Israel to help with the cost of the war in Lebanon.
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