France dissuaded Israel from opening a large-scale military operation against Lebanon in response to the border incident which killed Ltc. Dov Harari, the London-based al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper reported Wednesday.
French sources told the paper that Defense Minister Ehud Barak had informed French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner that "Israel intends on opening a large-scale military operation to educate the Lebanese Army and avenge the death of the senior Israeli officer."
This allegedly led to high-rank contacts involving French President Nicolas Sarkozy, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as well as Egyptian, Jordanian and other Arab state officials.
According to the report, the pressure managed to defuse tensions and prevent another northern campaign.
The French sources reported that the pressure's results were evident in Barak's statements when he said that "Israel didn't plan the incident, nor did the Lebanese Army." They added that the fact that Hezbollah did not interfere in the violence "pushed Lebanon away from a new war which would have been started as a result of one side or another's misconception."
According to the report, Israel knew it wasn't in its interest to fight the LAF since it's the only element able to "solve the issue of south Lebanon and enforce the country's rule in the area."
French officials believe they succeeded in opening a clean slate after the incident and that the current peaceful state will last. Nevertheless, the report noted that Israel had asked Paris to stop supplying the LAF with weapons since they were directed against Israeli forces and may reach Hezbollah.
It was further claimed that France rejected the appeal due to its commitments under a defense pact signed with Beirut. A delay had been detected in the arming of Lebanese fighter jets with air-to-surface French missiles, it was noted.
French officials said in response that the delay was caused by the fact that "Lebanon suffers from a funding issue" as well as internal Lebanese conflicts.
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