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West fears harm to peace process

Agencies - Britain joined the United States and France in calling for restraint and condemned Hizbollah cross-border attacks which sparked the raids. Arab states attacked Israel, calling for an end to its attacks.

The White House urged Hizbollah to defuse escalating tensions in Lebanon and Israel. "There have been a number of actions by Hizbollah, which is making it very difficult to restore calm and stability in north Israel and south Lebanon," White House press secretary Mike McCurry said.

"We believe that the best thing that could happen is for the violence to subside and it's quite clear that the best way for that to happen is for the uncessary provocations by Hizbollah to cease."

A Foreign Office spokesman in London said: "Pursuit of the peace process remains the priority and we know that Israel will gauge carefully its response and do all it can to avoid civilian casualties. When the peace process offers a non-violent way forward there can be absolutely no justification for Hizbollah actions."

To achieve a "just and lasting peace", France urged the application of United Nations resolution 425 which calls on Israel to leave southern Lebanon, for Lebanon to reassert sovereignty over its territory and for security to be restored to the border area between Israel and Lebanon. This was the message President Jacques Chriac took on his recent visit to southern Lebanon.

The Arab League condemned Israel's attacks and pledged its support for all measures taken by Lebanon to defend itself. "While condemning these aggressive practices that contradict international laws and norms, the Arab League expresses its absolute unity with the bravery of the Lebanese people," a statement said.