Fri, Aug 25, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Annan to promote support for ceasefire in the Middle East


UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is heading to the Middle East later this week and will visit Lebanon, Israel and most likely Syria and Iran to try to promote support for the UN resolution that led to the fragile Israeli-Hezbollah ceasefire, the UN announced on Wednesday.

Annan's first stop will be in Brussels to attend a meeting today of EU foreign ministers that will discuss the EU's contribution to an expanded UN peacekeeping force in Hezbollah's stronghold of south Lebanon.

The UN has appealed for European troops to balance pledges from several Muslim countries so the force will be broadly acceptable to the Israelis and Lebanese.

From Brussels, the secretary-general will travel to Lebanon and Israel to meet with senior officials and encourage full implementation of Resolution 1701 which was adopted on Aug. 11, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

Annan also plans to visit the Palestinian Authority, Qatar, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and will likely go to Syria and Iran as well, he said.

"The sequence of stops is still being worked out," Dujarric said.

The UN resolution, which aims to promote lasting peace between Israel and Lebanon, calls for a 15,000-strong UN force to support the deployment of 15,000 Lebanese army soldiers into southern Lebanon for the first time, and help monitor Israel's withdrawal.

It also calls for strict monitoring of Lebanon's borders and bans the shipment of arms to Hezbollah or any other armed militia.

Dujarric said the secretary-general would likely visit Syria and Iran because they have influence on key players in Lebanon and are important to the full implementation of Resolution 1701. But he could not say if Annan would be in Iran before Aug. 31, the Security Council deadline for Tehran to suspend its nuclear enrichment work.

"We need to talk to all those countries that have a role and influence," Dujarric said.

During the trip, Annan plans to reiterate his call for the lifting of Israel's air and sea blockade on Lebanon.

"It is important that Lebanon be able to reuse freely its ports and airports to restart its commercial activity," Dujarric said. "Obviously the monitoring of that is the responsibility of the government of Lebanon and we will work with them as dictated by the resolution to assist that. But it is very important that the blockade be lifted."

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