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The BBC's Jeremy Bowen reports
"We were taken to a frontline village by Hezbollah activists who would not be filmed"
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Wednesday, 23 February, 2000, 11:58 GMT
Arab League support for bombed Lebanon

Lebanon demo
Strong words of anger against the US and Israel

Arab League foreign ministers will meet in Beirut next month, rather than at the body's headquarters in Cairo, to show solidarity with Lebanon after it was attacked by Israel earlier in February.

Arab countries were fiercely critical of the Israeli air raids, which knocked out electricity and injured 22 civilians in retaliation for guerrilla attacks killing seven Israeli soldiers stationed in occupied south Lebanon.

"The question of Lebanon and the Israeli aggression against its territory will be one of the questions on the agenda, in order to endorse political and financial support for Lebanon," league secretary general Esmat Abdel Meguid said.

Egypt Lebanon meeting Mubarak dined with Lebanon's President Lahhoud
Mr Abdel Meguid said he had received a telephone call from Lebanese Prime Minister Salim al-Hoss welcoming the 22-member league's proposal to hold the meeting in Beirut on 12-13 March.

Arab states have offered money to repair damage from the Israeli raids, which is estimated at around $40m.

On Saturday, President Hosni Mubarak made the first visit to Beirut by a head of state from his country since Egypt became a republic in 1952.

Questions over pull-out

Arab support for Lebanon comes as Israeli military commanders are questioning the feasibility of Prime Minister Ehud Barak's pledge to withdraw Israeli forces from southern Lebanon by 7 July this year.

"I am not sure it is going to happen and I am not sure it is the decision that will be taken," Major General Giora Eiland, head of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) said on Wednesday.

However, the general said his "guess" was that the IDF would be out of Lebanon by the end of the year "one way or the other".

Israel Lebanon border Will the border be safe if Israel withdraws?
Mr Barak hopes the withdrawal can be achieved within the context of a peace deal with Damascus, which also demands the withdrawal of Israeli forces from occupied Syrian land and is the main power broker in Lebanon.

One obstacle to a withdrawal without Syria's blessing, the general said, was uncertainty over whether or not Lebanese guerrillas would use it as an opportunity to launch attacks on northern Israel.

"We are not completely sure that in the future [a unilateral withdrawal] will solve the problem. It may solve some of the problems and may cause other problems. Some of them can be even greater than those that we face now," General Eiland said.

Guerrilla successes against the IDF in Lebanon have caused considerable alarm in Israel, where about 70% favour withdrawal according to opinion polls.

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See also:
23 Feb 00 |  Middle East
Lebanon: End of war?
19 Feb 00 |  Middle East
Mubarak turns on Israel
17 Feb 00 |  Middle East
Hezbollah chief promises more Israeli deaths
19 Feb 00 |  Media reports
Lebanon: Extracts from joint statement
11 Feb 00 |  Middle East
Barak says Lebanon conflict is ending
08 Feb 00 |  Middle East
Analysis: Gloves off in Lebanon
11 Feb 00 |  Middle East
Analysis: Dilemma facing Israeli army

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