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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S.-Brokered Cease-Fire 'Possible,' Peres Says

JERUSALEM -- Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres said Friday the United States could broker a cease-fire in fighting with Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon this weekend.


Asked if the cross-border shell and rocket duels could end within 24 to 48 hours, Peres said, "It's possible, it's not certain, but there is a chance."


He was speaking to Israel's Channel Two television before meeting President Bill Clinton's peace envoy Dennis Ross in Tel Aviv.


Clinton dispatched Ross to the region after Israeli shells killed 101 Lebanese civilians sheltering at a UN peacekeeping base in south Lebanon on Thursday.


U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher is scheduled to travel to Damascus and Israel this weekend to clinch an immediate end to the nine-day-old fighting which has claimed more than 150 Lebanese lives and exposed Israel to international criticism.


Syria is the main military force in Lebanon and has reined in Hezbollah guerrillas battling Israel's occupation of south Lebanon under a previous deal.


Asked if he had received word that Syria was prepared to accept cease-fire proposals Peres said, "There is still not, but there are [some] indications."


Lebanon said a cease-fire could take four to five days to arrange but Syria's Foreign Minister Farouq al-Shara said Friday he hoped for a cease-fire within hours.


"As things become clear I think that the formal cease-fire declaration will come from the Lebanese," Peres said.


"But in practice it will be on Syrian terms, and I presume that the Americans are informed in this matter, and they will bring from the Syrians both a formal and an active cease-fire," Peres added.


In Moscow, a French presidential spokeswoman said Christopher and the foreign ministers of Russia, France and Italy would meet in Damascus on Saturday following a call by the Group of Seven leading industrial nations and Moscow for an immediate cease-fire.


As Peres spoke, Israeli artillery and aircraft kept up their pounding of suspected Hezbollah guerrilla positions. The pro-Iranian fighters responded with some 20 volleys of Katyusha rockets into Israel's Galilee region, security sources said. No Israelis were hurt but some buildings were damaged.


Hezbollah said three of its men were killed in an air raid in the southern end of the Bekaa Valley.


But Israel's bombardment was lighter than on Thursday when the civilian carnage prompted Clinton to call for an immediate cease-fire, a shift in Washington's unspoken support for Israel's blitz.


Washington, Moscow, the European Union and France have intensified efforts for a quick cease-fire to prevent further civilian bloodbaths.


Peres said real power lay with the United States. Neither he nor Ross spoke to reporters after their meeting.


Peres, facing elections in less than six weeks, launched the Lebanon blitz with popular backing to halt the Katyushas.


The Clinton administration saw the blitz as strengthening Peres ahead of May 29 elections when his peace policies, which Washington backs, will be put to voters.


Peres laid out four options for a settlement but political sources said he might just settle for a quick cease-fire to extricate himself from the Lebanon morass.