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U.N.-Brokered Peace Deal on Shaky Ground

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Debbie Elliott.

United Nations envoys traveled to Beirut today, where they warned that the shaky ceasefire between Hezbollah and Israel could, quote, easily start sliding into the abyss of violence and bloodshed. This after yesterday's Israeli commando raid on a Hezbollah stronghold in Lebanon, which the U.N. deemed a violation of the ceasefire agreement.

But the U.N.'s Terje Roed-Larson also said there was hope for Lebanon after the 34 day war.

Mr. TERJE ROED-LARSON (U.N. Envoy): There is a golden opportunity for Lebanon to solidify its democracy, to assert its authority, to produce a situation where Lebanon can be reconstructed.

ELLIOTT: Earlier today, Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora inspected damage in Beirut's southern suburbs.

NPR foreign correspondent Ivan Watson joins us now from Beirut.

Ivan, is Siniora's visit a sign that the Lebanese government is asserting itself in the reconstruction effort?

IVAN WATSON reporting:

If it is, Debbie, it's coming awfully late. I mean, this is the first visit that Siniora has paid to this area that was really the focus of the Israeli bombing campaign in more than five weeks, and it's just a few minutes drive south of the cent of the Lebanese capital.

The United Nations estimates some 15,000 homes were destroyed there. He called this a crime against humanity, but the government hasn't published a reconstruction plan for that area yet. And in the meantime, Hezbollah has moved to fill in the vacuum there.

ELLIOTT: So how has Hezbollah filled that void?

WATSON: It's been very impressive. Within hours of the ceasefire on Monday, Hezbollah was organizing the cleanup of the area. It set up a highly organized system to provide cash sums of $12,000 to each of the families made homeless by the bombing campaign. It's not just going to Shiite Muslims but also to Christians, I've heard.

Hezbollah is also promising to rebuild the homes of every person who lost a home during this conflict.

ELLIOTT: Israeli's foreign ministry is calling for the international community to follow through on its pledge to deploy international peacekeepers to Lebanon. Why is it taking so long to pull a force together?

WATSON: Well, France was expected to lead this peacekeeping force, but it has stopped short of expectations. It has only pledged to send 200 peacekeepers to join this peacekeeping force, and it has said that the peacekeepers need a clearer mandate.

Today one of the United Nations envoys visiting here, he said that the rules of engagement for the peacekeepers are still being negotiated, and that should only be finalized in a few days. And it's unlikely that countries are going to be willing to commit large numbers of their uniformed men and women on the ground until that's done.

ELLIOTT: NPR's Ivan Watson in Beirut.

Thank you.

WATSON: You're welcome, Debbie. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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