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Israel says has quit 2/3 of seized Lebanon land

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Jerusalem, Aug 31: Israel's army has handed over more than two thirds of the territory it captured in southern Lebanon to U.N. troops and Lebanese forces since a truce with Hizbollah took effect, the army said today ''The army is controlling less than a third. The rest of the territory was handed over to UNIFIL and the Lebanese army,'' a spokesman said, adding that another small patch of territory not far from the border was handed back yesterday.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan today renewed his call on Israel to withdraw fully from Lebanon as soon as 5,000 UN peacekeepers were in the south, around double the number there now.

But Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert rebuffed the demand, saying troops would stay in southern Lebanon until all parts of a UN resolution that halted hostilities on August 14 were met.

The Israeli army said its troops still controlled the entire border line. It began withdrawing soldiers soon after the truce went into force.

Israel's Maariv newspaper said six brigades, or 6,000-10,000 troops, were still in Lebanon.

At the height of the 34-day war with Hizbollah, some 30,000 Israeli soldiers were fighting inside southern Lebanon.

The army refuses to discuss troop numbers.

REUTERS

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