France, Israel talk on Lebanon flights: ambassador

Date: 11-20-06

PARIS (Reuters) - An Israeli general held talks with French officials recently about overflights of Lebanon by Israeli jets which Paris has strongly criticized, Israel's ambassador to France said on Monday.

Israeli warplanes have routinely flown over Lebanon since a 34-day war between Israel and Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas ended on August 14 in a U.N.-sponsored ceasefire.

The Lebanese government and the expanded U.N. peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon say the flights violate the ceasefire resolution. But Israel says the flights are needed to help ensure arms are not smuggled from Syria to resupply Hezbollah.

France has also complained about Israeli planes approaching its peacekeeping troops in a hostile manner, which on at least one occasion almost caused them to fire rockets at the jets.

"We brought over an Israeli general, who met the people who had to be met," Israeli Ambassador to France Daniel Shek told reporters in comments broadcast on France Info radio. "He listened to the French grievances. I hope this will eventually clarify things sufficiently."

Shek questioned how the planes could be seen as a threat.

"They are surveillance flights, these are aircraft that are armed only with cameras. There are no weapons, so how can they pose a threat to anyone?" he said.

The French foreign and defense ministries were not immediately available for comment.


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