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Qatar trying mediate end to Lebanon war -sources

Written by: Staff
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JERUSALEM, July 23 (Reuters) US ally Qatar is involved in mediation to end the war between Israel and the Lebanese guerrilla group Hizbollah, senior political sources said today.

The sources said Qatar, which has not signed a peace treaty with Israel but enjoys friendly ties with the Jewish state, had intensified its diplomacy in recent days directly with Israeli officials and also with Hizbollah through Lebanese officials.

''The Qataris are mediating between Israel and Hizbollah to end the current crisis in Lebanon,'' one senior political source told Reuters. The sources did not give details.

Israel's Foreign Ministry was not immediately available for comment.

The war erupted on July 12 when Hizbollah captured two Israeli soldiers and killed eight others in a cross-border raid. Israel has ruled out a prisoner swap for the return of its soldiers and sought to cripple Hizbollah with its offensive.

International diplomacy has intensified to put an end to fighting that has wrecked Lebanon's infrastructure and claimed hundreds of lives.

Ministers from France, Germany and Britain are visiting Israel and will hold talks with Israeli officials ahead of the arrival of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who heads for the West Asia today .

Qatar and European countries have criticised Israel's offensive while the United States, Israel's closest ally, has resisted growing calls for a ceasefire and joined Israel in blaming the Iranian-backed Hizbollah for the crisis.

Israeli attacks aimed at Hizbollah have killed 358 people in Lebanon, most of them civilians. At least 35 Israelis have died, 15 of them civilians killed by Hizbollah rockets on the north of the country.

REUTERS SRS PM1408

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