Powell to meet Lebanese, Syrian officials
JERUSALEM (CNN) -- U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell travels Monday to Beirut to meet with top Lebanese officials over concerns that cross-border attacks between Israel and Lebanon threaten to open a new battlefront in the region.
Powell then plans to travel to neighboring Syria for more talks about violations of the so-called "Blue Line."
The United Nations drew the line two years ago to mark the border between Lebanon and Israel after the Jewish state withdrew its troops from southern Lebanon after about two decades of occupation. Hezbollah was instrumental in forcing Israel to withdraw its troops.
To accommodate Powell, Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri postponed for 24 hours a planned trip Wednesday to Washington, where he was to have met with President Bush.
For two weeks, suspected Hezbollah militants have targeted Israeli army outposts in the north, particularly in the disputed Shebaa Farms area on the edge of the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights.
Israel has responded with heavy air attacks against suspected Iran- and Syria-backed Hezbollah hideouts in southern Lebanon.
Lebanon claims the Shebaa Farms area as its territory, having captured it from Syria during the 1967 Six-Day War. Since Israeli troops occupy the area, Beirut says the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon is not complete.
Israel has said it would withdraw from Shebaa Farms only as part of peace negotiations with Syria. Israel's position is backed by a U.N. ruling that the area is in fact part of Syria. Syria, however, says the area belongs to Lebanon.
"I am very much concerned because the Hezbollah are spoilers, and the Lebanese don't have really control over them," Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said Sunday.
"Let's not forget that in Damascus there are 10 headquarters of different terrorist organizations, and yet Syria is a member of the [U.N.] Security Council, which is absurd," Peres said.
"The Syrians must decide if they are for the security of the world or the insecurity of the world of terror," he said. "We shall hold Syria directly responsible."
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