Lebanon latest

OTHER developments yesterday in the Middle East crisis

*The Lebanese government said up to 600 people may have been killed in Israel’s 16-day- campaign.

Lebanese Health Minister Mohammad Khalifeh said hospitals had received 401 bodies of people killed during the war launched by Israel after Hezbollah captured two of its soldiers and killed eight in a cross-border raid on July 12.

“On top of those victims, there are 150 to 200 bodies still under the rubble. We have not been able to pull them out because the areas they died in are still under fire,” he said.

At least 437 people, most of them civilians, have been confirmed killed in Lebanon, according to a Reuters tally. Fifty-one Israelis, including 18 civilians, have been killed.

*US President George Bush declined yesterday to criticise Israel’s tactics in its continuing offensive against Hezbollah guerrillas in southern Lebanon, and gave a sharp condemnation of Iran’s role in the bloody fighting.

“Hezbollah attacked Israel. I know Hezbollah is connected to Iran,” he said.

“Now is the time for the world to confront this danger,” Bush said.

*A top Iranian envoy was reported to have arrived in Syria for talks in a meeting that brought together the guerrilla organisation’s two key sponsors, according to news reports.

A Kuwaiti newspaper reported that Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah was taking part in the session.

Kuwait’s Al-Siyassah newspaper, known for its opposition to the Syrian regime, said the meeting was designed to discuss ways to maintain supplies to Hezbollah fighters with “Iranian arms flowing through Syrian territories”.

Al-Siyassah said it learned of the meeting from “well-informed Syrian sources” it did not identify.

The Mehr news agency in Iran said Ali Larijani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, was in Damascus for meetings on the crisis.

*Lebanese President Emile Lahoud said Israel will not be able to disarm Hezbollah by broadening its military offensive and instead must stop shooting and start talking.

“Whatever it (Israel) does it’s not going to reach its goal,” the Lebanese leader said. “They’re not going to be able to take out the weaponry of Hezbollah. So all they’re doing is massive destruction.”

Mr Lahoud, a staunch supporter of Hezbollah and close ally of Syria, also called on the United States to help end the destruction and push for a ceasefire.

*A United Nations body today passed a resolution condemning Israel for imposing “severe restrictions” on Palestinians, and demanded that the Jewish state transfer tax revenues owed to Palestinian authorities.

The Economic and Social Council voted 45-3 in favour, with three abstentions, in criticising Israel’s treatment of Palestinians living in East Jerusalem and “the occupied Palestinian territory”.

It called for “the lifting of the severe restrictions imposed on the Palestinian people”.

It also demanded that Israel comply with an economic agreement signed with the PLO in 1994 and “urgently transfer Palestinian tax revenues”.

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