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Lebanon Crisis Delays UN On Iran Nuclear Issue --> Lebanonese civilians crossing the border with Syria on July 17 to escape the Israeli air strikes (epa) July 18, 2006 -- Diplomats at the United Nations say the fighting between Israel and Hizballah in Lebanon has postponed Security Council consideration of a draft resolution demanding that Iran halt uranium-enrichment activities.

Reports say diplomats of Security Council member countries spent July 17 mainly discussing the Middle East conflict, not Iran's nuclear work.

The United States had said it expected the Security Council to take up the Iran issue early this week after six major world powers -- the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France, and Germany -- decided last week to send the case back to the Security Council after Iran failed to respond to an offer of incentives in exchange for halting uranium-enrichment work.

Lebanon Violence Continues

Meanwhile, Israeli jets carried out fresh air strikes in Lebanon today.

Nine civilians, all from one family and including children, were killed in an air strike that destroyed a house in a southern village. Four others died in strikes elsewhere in the south.

At least nine Lebanese soldiers were reported killed and dozens injured in an air strike on an army barracks outside Beirut.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has vowed Israel will continue its offensive until Hizballah returns two captured Israeli soldiers and the Lebanese Army takes control of southern Lebanon, uprooting Hizballah from the region. Hizballah, backed by Iran and Syria, is part of the Lebanese government.

Israel's deputy army chief refused to rule out a ground invasion. Major General Moshe Kaplinsky said the offensive against Hizballah in Lebanon would end within a few weeks, because Israel needed more time to complete "very clear goals."

Civilians Flee

Tens of thousand of foreigners have been streaming out of Lebanon as the air strikes continued, some by road to Syria, others seeking places on U.S. and European ships.

European Union countries, Russia, and the United States have all launched operations to evacuate their nationals.

Syrian authorities say more than 100,000 people, three-quarters of them foreigners, have crossed into Syria from Lebanon over the past five days.

Lebanon's Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said Israel's attacks have inflicted billions of dollars of damage.

As of today, the Israeli retaliation for the capture of two soldiers and rocket attacks by Hizballah has killed 215 people in Lebanon. Hizballah rocket attacks have killed 24 people in northern Israel.

(compiled from agency reports)