The United Nations Secretary-General has arrived in Lebanon for the start of a regional tour to shore up a truce between Israel and Hizbollah fighters. Kofi Annan is to discuss the deployment of a 15,000-strong UN peacekeeping force in the south of the country. The United Nations hopes troops will be on the ground within a week. The European Union has said it could take two to three months before the full force is deployed.
It is reported that Annan will discuss the lifting of an Israeli air and sea blockade of Lebanon and a possible prisoner swap. The UN Chief will be holding talks with Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and other key politicians in Beirut today. “I think it is important that I come here myself to discuss with the Lebanese authorities the aftermath of the war and the measures we need to take to implement the UN resolutions,” he said. Annan is also scheduled to visit Israel, the Palestinian territories, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Iran and Syria.