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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Israel, Lebanon Dispute Border River

JERUSALEM -- Israel will not allow Lebanon to divert water from a border river shared by the two countries, Israel's defense minister warned Tuesday, a day after a U.S. water expert inspected a Lebanese pumping project there.

Israel's foreign minister said he would raise the issue later Tuesday with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell in New York.

On Monday, the U.S. expert watched as Lebanese workers laid pipes to pump water from the Wazzani River, a tributary of the Hasbani River, which flows into the River Jordan, a major source of water for Israel. Lebanon says it needs the water for parched villages in the south.

Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer told reporters during a tour of the West Bank town of Bethlehem that the Hasbani water system provides 10 percent of Israel's water and diverting it is a "violation of every agreement we have signed in the past."

"Israel cannot tolerate the diversion of the waters of the Hasbani," Ben-Eliezer said. "I trust the Americans to stop it."

Lebanese President Emile Lahoud has said the project will continue. The leader of Lebanon's militant Hezbollah group has said Hezbollah will "cut off Israel's hands" if it uses military force to stop the scheme.

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said Tuesday that prospects for a compromise were uncertain because of Hezbollah, which waged an 18-year battle against Israel's occupation of southern Lebanon. Israel withdrew in May 2000.

"I don't know what is happening with the power forces in Lebanon. There is one power in Lebanon that is trying to destroy everything and that is Hezbollah. It is a force that does not always obey [the government]," Peres told Israel Radio.