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Lebanese PM Appeals to Arab Nations for Help

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Now to Lebanon, where the civilian toll keeps climbing. There are reports that dozens of people have been killed by Israeli military strikes in southern Lebanon. At the same time, the Arab League is holding an emergency meeting in Beirut. There it heard a teary appeal from Lebanon's prime minister. We're joined from there by NPR's Philip Reeves. And first bring us up to date, if you would, on the latest violence.

PHILIP REEVES reporting:

Well, the fighting continues unabated. There's been an Israeli strike on the Lebanese border village of Hulah today. And Mr. Siniora - Lebanon's prime minister - has just told the Arab League that this strike killed more than 40 people. He characterized it as a massacre. Now, news reports on this are still coming in, and the details are sketchy - although they do speak of rescuers searching through the rubble in the village in the hope of finding survivors. But as I say, it's not absolutely clear precisely what happened there. Yesterday, as we all now know, saw Israel's bloodiest Hezbollah rocket attack against northern Israel. And today, Lebanon is being hard hit. Seven people were killed when an Israeli missile hit a house in another village in south Lebanon - a place called Gazania(ph) - and residents have been digging through rubble in the village right by Sidon, where they've hauled out several bodies after an Israeli missile strike. And they believe that a woman's trapped in the wreckage. There's also heavy shelling and fighting, particularly around Tyre. And there's been an Israeli missile strike there, which has cut off the city's road to the north - which Lebanese officials say at the moment is its only remaining supply line. So it's been a bad day.

MONTAGNE: And as you just mentioned, Lebanon's Prime Minister Fouad Siniora just addressed the Arab League. What did he say?

REEVES: It was an emotional speech in which he broke down in tears several times. He became particularly upset as he described the suffering of his citizens brought about by this war. And in general, his speech underscored, you know, the strength of Lebanon's opposition to the U.N. draft Security Council resolution offered by the U.S. in France in an attempt to end the fighting here. Siniora declared that he was unhappy with its terms, and he reiterated Lebanon's demands.

MONTAGNE: And remind us what are Lebanon's demands.

REEVES: Well, it's got a number of issues with the resolution. It's particularly unhappy that it doesn't include a call for an Israeli withdrawal. Lebanon has been for a while been touting a seven-point peace plan which his cabinet has drawn up and wants accepted. And these include a cease-fire, an exchange of prisoners, Israel's immediate withdrawal from Lebanese territory, return of displaced people, and of course Shebaa Farms - the disputed pocket of border lands - to be placed under U.N. supervision until the issue's settled. It also envisages the deployment of Lebanon's army with U.N. peacekeepers immediately after the Israelis leave to take control of the south, and that would be coupled with the disarming of Hezbollah.

MONTAGNE: And how was Siniora received by the Arab League?

REEVES: He was applauded during the speech, and at the end there was standing ovation for him. This isn't surprising. I mean, the resolution has not been well received in the Arab world. Before the meeting, the secretary general of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, called it unacceptable. And there've been critical words from Jordan and, of course, from Syria - who have expressed strong dissatisfaction with the draft. Its foreign has described it as a recipe for a continuation of war, and in fact, for a possible civil war in Lebanon.

MONTAGNE: Bringing us up to date on today's events in Lebanon, NPR's Philip Reeves in Beirut. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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