Tension is growing in the Middle East over the role of an international peacekeeping force at Lebanon’s border with Syria. Israel says it will not withdraw fully from Lebanon nor lift its air and sea blockade until the UN troops deploy at the frontier with Syria.
Piling pressure on Beirut, a top US lawmaker has blocked aid promised to Lebanon until it allows peacekeepers to operate at the border. But Beirut refuses the presence of any soldiers other than Lebanese at the frontier. Damascus has even threatened to shut its border with Lebanon if UN troops deploy there.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan is due to travel to Beirut on Monday as part of a tour of the region in a bid to break the deadlock. The war is estimated to have cost Lebanon close to three billion euros according to the government. Concern is growing in the West that Hizbollah is gaining an early advantage in the task of rebuilding the country. Meanwhile, it is being reported the two Israeli soldiers whose kidnapping by Hizbollah guerrillas two months ago triggered the war could be released within three weeks.