Israeli Defense Minister Says Army Operation Not an Invasion of Lebanon

Defense Minister Amir Peretz told the Cabinet on Sunday that the army's current offensive is not an invasion of Lebanon, but rather a series of limited raids into the area.

Peretz also said that Israel would accept a temporary international force, preferably headed by NATO, deployed along the Lebanese border to keep Hezbollah guerrillas away from Israel, according to officials in Peretz's office.

"The army's ground operation in Lebanon is focused on limited entrances, and we are not talking about an invasion of Lebanon. We are beginning to see the army's successes opposite Hezbollah," he told the Cabinet, according to a participant in the meeting.

CountryWatch: Lebanon

"The army's goal is to create a new reality, mostly that Hezbollah won't be along the border," he said, adding that the army has found a lot of Hezbollah weapons during the operation.

Peretz also held a closed meeting with visiting German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

"Israel's goal is to see the Lebanese army deployed along the border with Israel, but we understand that we are taking about a weak army and that in the midterm period Israel will have to accept a multinational force," he said in that meeting, according to his office. Peretz suggested NATO be in charge of the force.

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