UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has repeated his call for Israel to lift its blockade of Lebanon, following talks with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. The two gave a joint press conference after their meeting, aimed at securing a lasting peace. “I have been edging for the immediate lifting of the blockade on Lebanon,” said Annan.
“It is important, not only because of the economic effect it is having on the country, but it is also important to strengthen the democratic government of Lebanon with which Israel has repeatedly said it had no problem.” For his part, Olmert insisted that the threat posed by Hizbollah be quashed once and for all.
“Resolution 1701 also calls for the deployment of an international force together with the Lebanese army in the south and along the border with Israel, the deployment of the international force along the Syrian-Lebanese border and at the entry points to Lebanon in order to prevent the re-arming of Hizbollah (and) the enforcing of an arms embargo on countries that continue to supply weapons to Hizbollah,” he said.
Annan also called for the unconditional release of two Israeli soldiers, held by Hizbollah since July 12. Earlier, he met their families. The wife of one of the abducted soldiers expressed her concerns. “We are very worried because, until today, none of the three families have had any sign of life from Udi, Gilad and Endad, and I know that the UN, I hope that the UN, will take responsibility,” she said. One of the Israeli soldiers she referred to was seized by Palestinian militants. It was the subsequent capture of two more troops in Lebanon that triggered the 34-day war between Israel and Hizbollah.