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Israel says it will leave Lebanon in 10 days

U.N. plans to send advance guard of peacekeepers

A Lebanese girl and her brother, in a Nasrallah T-shirt, cross a river near the southern town of Marjayoun.

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NABATIYE, Lebanon (CNN) -- The Israel Defense Forces will complete their pullout from southern Lebanon within 10 days, giving way to U.N. and Lebanese troops, Israel's army chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz, said Tuesday.

The first of 15,000 Lebanese troops could begin moving into areas south of the Litani River by Thursday, Lebanese officials said.

Meanwhile, thousands of Lebanese civilians displaced by the conflict clogged southbound roads, trying to return home despite warnings from the Israeli military that it was not yet safe. (Watch people take the perilous journey in spite of warnings -- 3:07)

Most of the bridges over the Litani River were destroyed in more than four weeks of airstrikes. Some people waded through the water, including mothers carrying babies.

The United Nations plans to deploy 3,000 to 3,500 troops to southern Lebanon in 10 to 15 days, said Hedi Annabi, deputy director of U.N. peacekeeping. They will work with Lebanese troops to create a demilitarized zone between the Litani River and the Israel-Lebanon border.

Under the U.N.-brokered cease-fire agreement, the combined forces will seek to prevent a return to violence between the Israeli military and Hezbollah militia that has claimed more than 1,000 lives. (Watch tensions remain as cease-fire begins -- 1:09)

"Everybody is keen to implement this rapidly," said French Maj. Gen. Alain Pellegrini, the commander of U.N. Interim Forces in Lebanon.

"The IDF want to leave as soon as possible, and the Lebanese Army is very conscious of its responsibility and wants to take over very, very quickly," Pellegrini said. "I think all the process could be done within 10 days."

John Bolton, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said Tuesday that diplomats "are working hard" to determine which countries will send peacekeeping troops to bolster UNIFIL.

Dozens of countries, including Italy, Malaysia, Indonesia and Turkey, have expressed interest in taking part, and their representatives attended technical meetings at U.N. headquarters. But no country had pledged troops as of Tuesday.

France is expected to make a significant offer to bolster the 1,990 UNIFIL troops, but Paris has not confirmed the scope of its contribution.

"We have a bit of a hesitation, because the others would like to know what the French will provide and the French want to know what the others will provide," a senior U.N. official said.

"What we'd like to see is the French provide a significant contribution that could be, if you like, the backbone of the force," the official added.

Syria and Iran praise Hezbollah

The leaders of Syria and Iran, who have largely remained silent during the 34-day conflict, delivered speeches Tuesday within hours of each other, praising the Hezbollah resistance and criticizing Israel and its supporters.

"Israel is an enemy [and] does not want peace, because peace will impose on Israel to return the Arab lands," Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad said.

He said the region had changed "because of the achievements" of Hezbollah. (Full story)

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Hezbollah was victorious against Israel despite the immense damage inflicted on Lebanon.

"Those who said [the Israeli] army is unbreakable and undefeatable and [vowed to] create major destruction within 30 days were defeated against the power of the young people," Ahmadinejad said. "And these young people managed to raise the flags of victory across Lebanon." (Watch why Iran says Hezbollah doesn't need help -- 2:07)

Some Iranians in the audience waved photos of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah during the speech.

Ahmadinejad blamed the United States and Britain -- both permanent members of the U.N. Security Council -- for standing in the way of a cease-fire and said that "they should be punished." (Full story)

He also called on "whoever participated in the destruction of Lebanon" as well as the United Nations to compensate the Lebanese "for what happened."

President Bush blames Iran and Syria for their support of Hezbollah and has held both countries accountable for the militia's actions. The United States and Israel classify Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.

Hezbollah to disarm?

A small number of clashes between Hezbollah fighters and Israeli soldiers were reported Monday and Tuesday, and the Israel Defense Forces said at least nine Hezbollah militants were killed.

About four mortar rounds were fired inside southern Lebanon late Monday but did not hit Israeli troops, and Israel decided not to respond, an IDF spokesman said.

As part of the cease-fire agreement, Israel agreed to stop offensive military operations and withdraw its forces from the region of Lebanon south of the Litani once the combined Lebanese-international force is in place. In return, Hezbollah agreed to disarm south of the river.

However, it is unclear whether Hezbollah will comply with its part of the agreement.

Mohamad Chatah, an adviser to Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, said his government's goal is to persuade Hezbollah to become "a normal political party, having the same rights and obligations as others."

"Hezbollah says that can happen," Chatah said. "We cannot have two armies anymore."

In a TV address Monday night, Hezbollah leader Nasrallah gave mixed signals on the disarmament question. While saying he is willing to discuss the issue, he also said Lebanese troops are not yet capable of defending the country. (Full story)

In a speech Monday to the Israeli Knesset, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made it clear that if Hezbollah does not disarm Israel will continue with what he termed "a long, hard, arduous, complex fight." (Full story)

Olmert announced he was appointing Ofer Dekel, former deputy head of Israel's security service, to lead efforts to secure the release of two soldiers Hezbollah captured in a July 12 cross-border raid that ignited the conflict.

The cease-fire agreement calls for Hezbollah to return the soldiers.

CNN's Jim Clancy, Chris Lawrence, Brent Sadler, Liz Neisloss and Karl Penhaul contributed to this report.

Copyright 2006 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

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