Israel has rejected calls from the UN Secretary- General to bring a swift end to its blockade of Lebanon. Kofi Annan had gone to Israel with two requests: that the blockade be stopped and that Israeli troops return home. But Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert insists the rest of Resolution 1701 be in place first.
“…everything will be implemented, including the lifting of the blockade, as part of the entire implementation of the different articles,” he said. Annan remains confident that one of these ‘articles’ – the issue of troops – will soon be resolved. There are currently 2,500 UN peacekeepers in Lebanon.
“We are going to try to double that number and get to 5,000 in the coming days and weeks and I hope that, as we do that, the Israeli withdrawal will continue and by the time we are at that level Israel will have fully withdrawn and we will have an effective, credible force on the ground,” he said. One major sticking point is the release, as required in the resolution, of two Israeli soldiers held by Hizbollah. The Shi’ite group says this can only happen as part of a prisoner exchange – something Israel has, up until now, refused to do.