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U.N.: Cease-fire holding in Lebanon

UNITED NATIONS, Aug. 15 (UPI) -- The U.N.-brokered cease-fire in the Israel-Hezbollah conflict appears to be holding, the United Nations says.

That announcement, made Tuesday, came in the wake of news no individual country had made a firm commitment of troops to an enhanced U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon peacekeeping force.

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A U.N. Security Council resolution, passed Friday after weeks of intensive negotiations, brought a settlement to the nearly month-long war and called for the deployment of a robust U.N. force. That force would assist the Lebanese government in keeping the peace while helping to block trafficking of weapons into Lebanon.

The force was proposed in part to dissuade concerns voiced by Israel its withdrawal would lead to a power vacuum in southern Lebanon that could easily be filled by the Hezbollah militia, whose July 12 incursion into Israel and capture of two Israeli soldiers precipitated the conflict.

The responsibility of mandating the force falls on the U.N. Security Council, while Secretary-General Kofi Annan ensures the mandate is carried out.

U.S. Ambassador John Bolton, speaking to reporters Tuesday, pushed aside concerns about delays in creating a force.

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"I think that obviously the decisions have to be made by individual countries and their taking into account the circumstances of the mission, the extent of the mandate, the operational difficulties," he said.

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs meanwhile said the cessation of hostilities has held, except for a handful of skirmishes between the Israeli forces and Hezbollah. As an estimated 200,000 Lebanese have begun returning to their homes, aid agencies have expressed concern about the danger of unexploded landmines. Several landmine accidents were reported Monday, including the death of one child.

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