Netanyahu Assures Lebanon Israel Has No Plans to Attack

Response comes in the wake of party mate's comment

Israel has no intention of attacking Lebanon, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said yesterday, after Minister without Portfolio Yossi Peled (Likud) warned of a confrontation on Israel's northern border.

"The State of Israel is not looking for any kind of confrontation with Lebanon," Netanyahu said in a statement released by his office, adding, "Israel seeks peace with all of its neighbors."

In an appearance in Be'er Sheva yesterday morning, Peled said, "We cannot sleep peacefully" due to the situation on the northern border, adding, "We are going to have another round in the north, but I don't know when." Peled stated that in the event of a confrontation, Israel would hold Lebanon and Syria responsible and not just Hezbollah.

Senior European diplomats in Lebanon said the country's leaders, including Prime Minister Saad Hariri and President Michel Suleiman, told visiting U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell that they were concerned Israel might attack. They cited an increase in Israeli overflights and Israel Defense Forces exercises on the Lebanese border as potential evidence of Israel's intentions.

Hariri conveyed a similar message to French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner on a recent visit to Paris.

At a news conference after his meeting with Hariri, Kouchner said the real threat to Lebanon is not Israel but Hezbollah.

The London-based Arabic daily Al-Hayat reported that Sarkozy warned Hariri that Israel would not "sit idly by" in the face of the Iranian nuclear program. The paper reported that in an appearance before international diplomats, the French president said that the United Nations should impose tougher sanctions on Iran and that the European Union should step up the pressure to push the Iranian leadership into serious negotiations on the matter.

Another Arabic London-based daily, Al-Sharq al-Awsat, reported yesterday that Sarkozy had told senior Lebanese officials that France urging Israel to spare Lebanon's infrastructure in a future attack, but was also calling on the Lebanese to avoid action that would provoke an Israeli assault.