The Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, has said his country will keep on fighting in Lebanon until a strong international force is deployed there.

Mr Olmert said he wanted an international force to be mandated to enforce a UN resolution calling for Hezbollah to be disarmed.

He also said Israel's offensive was working.

A spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, Mark Regev, told RTÉ News that if Israel stopped and waited for peacekeepers, Hezbollah would seize the chance to stage yet more attacks.

In another development, the government in Beirut has said the conflict has inflicted damage on the country's infrastructure estimated at €1.56 billion.

Meanwhile, diplomatic efforts are under way to try to end the conflict.

Ambassadors from the five United Nations Security Council permanent members met to discuss the crisis.

However, there was no sign that the five- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States  - had reconciled differences on ending the conflict.

France would boycott peace force meeting

France has said it would boycott a meeting on an international force for Lebanon - a French official said such a meeting would be premature.

France has drafted a resolution calling for an immediate cessation of hostilities.

The US opposes an immediate ceasefire. Ambassador John Bolton said envoys were still discussing how to proceed.

Last night, the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, and the Israeli Deputy Prime Minister gave different estimates of how long the Israeli military operation in Lebanon will continue.

Speaking after a meeting in Washington, Dr Rice said she believed a ceasefire was possible within days.

However, Shimon Peres said he believed it could be a matter of weeks; although he said he did not want to set a date.