The UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, now on day four of his tour of the Middle East, still has his work cut out to preserve the peace. Israel has rejected his call it should lift its blockade of Lebanon citing security fears. Annan acknowledged Israeli concerns Hizbollah could re-arm: “I think we need to be able to take care of the concerns of Israel. And I understand the issue of rearmament that we need to make sure that arms do not come in either through the airports and the borders or through the sea ports.” With no sign of an easing of the sea and air blockade, the Lebanese Defence Minister Elias Murr has accused Israel of using it to gain economic advantage over its northern neighbour. “This enemy,” he said, “has many interests in Lebanon. One of them is to apply pressure on Lebanon economically because it considers it a principal competitor in the Middle East.”
Hizbollah and Israel, meanwhile, say they are open to talks about an exchange of prisoners. Following a meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, the US mediator – the Reverend Jesse Jackson – said he was convinced Hamas and Hizbollah are interested in working out some plan of exchange.