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Lebanon rejects Israel's offer for peace talks

Latest update : 2008-06-11

Lebanon rejected a call by Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert for peace talks, demanding that Israel pull out from disputed territory along their shared border.

Lebanon rejected on Wednesday a call by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for peace talks and demanded that Israel withdraw from disputed territory along their international borders.
"There are pending bilateral issues between Lebanon and Israel which are governed by international resolutions which Israel must repect... and which cannot be the object of political negotiations," a government statement said.
"Israel... must respect Lebanon's sovereignty over its territory and its water, release prisoners and provide maps on mines and cluster bombs" strewn in Lebanon during past conflicts, it said.
On Tuesday, the Israeli prime minister suggested holding peace talks with Lebanon, following last month's announcement of indirect, Turkish-mediated negotiations with Syria.
"I see many advantages in this," a senior Israeli official quoted Olmert as saying in a cabinet meeting.
In May 2000, Israel withdrew from south Lebanon after a 22-year occupation in line with UN Security Council Resolution 425 but the Jewish state still held onto the Shebaa Farms on the borders with Lebanon and Syria.
Israel captured the 25-square-kilometre (10-square-mile) area of land on the Israel-Lebanon-Syria border as part of the Syrian Golan Heights during the 1967 Six Day War and later annexed it along with the rest of the strategic plateau.
The UN considers the Shebaa Farms as Syrian but Beirut, with the approval of Damascus, claims sovereignty over the territory and the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah justifies its continuing armed struggle against Israel on the basis of liberating it.
Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora, who for the past 15 months received strong US backing in his standoff with the Hezbollah-led opposition, reiterated the government claim to the territory in a telephone conversation with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice late on Wednesday, his office said.
The prime minister asked Rice to "put pressure on Israel to withdraw from the Shebaa Farms and place the terruitory under UN administration pending a demarcation of the border between Syria and Lebanon," it said.
Security Council Resolution 1701 which put an end to an indecisive 34-day war between Israel and Hezbollah in 2006 also demanded an Israeli pullout from the Shebaa Farms.
Lebanon and Israel have officially remained at a state of war since 1948, when the Jewish state was established, despite having signed an armistice agreement in 1949.
Siniora pledged two years ago that Lebanon would be "the last Arab country to sign" a peace treaty with Israel.

Date created : 2008-06-11