Annan tours Lebanon destruction

Kofi Annan is in southern Lebanon to view the devastation in a region where up to 13,000 extra UN peacekeepers are mandated to bolster a two-week-old truce between Israel and Hezbollah.

    Kofi Annan visiting the devastation in Lebanon

    The UN secretary-general arrived on Tuesday in the southern town of Naqoura, where a 2,000 strong UN Interim Force (Unifil) contingent is based, and laid a wreath at a memorial in honour of UN soldiers killed during the 34-day conflict.

    The UN secretary-general has urged both sides to respect the ceasefire, which he believes can be upheld only by full implementation of resolution 1701.

    Middle East tour

    Annan is due to leave for Israel on Tuesday before heading to Syria and Iran, which are believed to be the main backers of the Lebanese Shia Muslim resistance movement Hezbollah.

    Annan paid his respects to the
    late Rafiq al-Hariri in Beirut

    Annan has said he will ask Israel to immediately lift its sea and air blockade of Lebanon imposed nearly seven weeks ago.

    He has also said that he will ask Syria to police its border with Lebanon to prevent arms supplies to Hezbollah, something that Israel has said is justification for Israeli air strikes that were carried out inside Lebanon days after the ceasefire began two weeks ago.

    On Monday, Annan met Fuad Siniora, the Lebanese prime minister, and the ministers of defence and interior, along with Major-General Alain Pellegrini, the Unifil commander, to discuss steps the government has taken to tighten border security and what equipment and technical help it might need.

    Keeping the peace

    At his news conference in Beirut, Annan urged Hezbollah to release the two Israeli soldiers whose capture in a cross-border raid on July 12 triggered the conflict.

    Hezbollah wants to swap the two soldiers for Lebanese prisoners in Israeli jails through indirect negotiations.

    Israel is also trying to secure the release of a third soldier captured by Palestinian fighters in the Gaza Strip.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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