Following the meeting, Prodi added: "Peres confirmed to me that the moment the UN forces in Lebanon will count 5,000 soldiers, the Israeli army will begin to withdraw from the area."
Yesterday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert rejected the demand of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan for Israel's complete withdrawal from Lebanon after the arrival of 5,000 out of the 15,000 soldiers that are to be deployed in the area. But the IDF announced on Thursday that for the first time in two decades, the control of a section of the Israel-Lebanon border was handed over to Lebanese and international forces.
Shimon Peres and Romano Prodi (Photo: Reuters)
'Rome's decision is important and brave'
Previously, during the time of the ceasefire, the IDF manned the security strip 15 kilometers into Lebanon. But since then, Israel is gradually handing over the control of the area to Lebanese forces and UN soldiers.
In a television interview prior to his meeting with Prodi, Peres said he was hopeful that UN peacekeepers in southern Lebanon could prevent a new outbreak of violence in the region.
"Southern Lebanon is a small place, and yet, 30,000 troops will be there. They are a very good guarantee the war will not happen again," he said. A peacekeeping force of up to 15,000 troops is to help 15,000 Lebanese troops extend their authority into south Lebanon.
Peres also praised Italy's leading role in the crisis, saying Rome's decision to commit 2,500 troops was "important and brave." Italy is providing the largest contingent to the UN force, called UNIFIL, and is set to assume command early next year.
Associated Press contributed to the report