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THE MIDEAST IN BRIEF

International calls for cease-fire grow

PARIS -- International pressure for a swift cease-fire in Lebanon mounted yesterday, with France and Russia saying Israel's pause in airstrikes was not enough. France's prime minister, Dominique de Villepin, said an international stabilization force could be deployed in south Lebanon only after a cease-fire and a clear political road map had been agreed upon. A United Nations meeting to plan a peacekeeping force was postponed indefinitely yesterday. (Reuters)

UNITED NATIONS

Lebanese diplomat wants raid probed
A top Lebanese official asked the UN Security Council yesterday for an international inquiry into the Israeli raid on the Lebanese village of Qana that killed 56 people. Tareq Mitri, Lebanon's acting foreign minister, also renewed a government plea for an end to the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah, which has raged since July 12. (Reuters)

LEBANON

Syrian Army is told to boost readiness
BEIRUT -- President Bashar Assad of Syria called on his army yesterday to increase readiness to cope with ``regional challenges." Assad's comments came as Israel and Hezbollah entered their 20th day of fighting in Lebanon. Syria has stayed out of the conflict, but Israeli airstrikes have increasingly come closer, with repeated raids on border points on the Beirut-Damascus highway that links Lebanon and Syria. (AP)

UN says aid convoys still face hurdles
BEIRUT -- The United Nations said yesterday that access for desperately needed aid convoys to southern Lebanon had not improved since Israel agreed to a 48-hour suspension of airstrikes. Khaled Mansour, a UN spokesman in Lebanon, said the UN was forced to stick to the same procedure it was using before the suspension: trying to get clearance for each aid convoy from the warring parties before leaving Beirut. (Reuters)

IRAQ

Arab states accused of failing Lebanon
NAJAF -- Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr accused Arab states yesterday of failing to stand behind Lebanon in its crisis with Israel and said they had done the same with Iraq in its time of need. ``We are used to being disappointed by them. They were just silent over Iraq or interfered in a negative way," he said. Sadr is part of Iraq's ruling Shi'ite alliance and also commands a large, powerful militia. (Reuters)

SAUDI ARABIA

Shi'ites protest Israeli offensive
RIYADH -- Dozens of Saudi Muslim Shi'ites demonstrated last weekend against Israel's military offensive in Lebanon, taking to the streets of the country's Eastern Province, a rare move in the Sunni-led kingdom. Shi'ite men and women were able to stage two protests, marching in the towns of al-Qateef and al-Awamiya on Saturday. Public protests are banned in Saudi Arabia. (Reuters)

WEST BANK

Israel releases Palestinian official
RAMALLAH -- Israel freed the deputy speaker of the Palestinian parliament, an independent lawmaker close to the governing Hamas Islamist group , he said today. Hassan Khreishe was arrested along with dozens of Hamas officials after the June 25 capture of a soldier by militants from the Gaza Strip . Khreishe was freed Sunday. He had not been charged. (Reuters)

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