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Middle East: UN cites ‘promising first efforts'

Middle East: UN team leader cites ‘promising first efforts’ but says much work remains

The head of a three-member United Nations team dispatched to the Middle East to defuse the growing crisis said today in Beirut they had made “some promising first efforts” following high-level discussions with Lebanon’s Government, but he stressed there was much diplomatic work ahead and the consequences of failure could be grave.

“I can announce today that we have made some promising first efforts on the way forward. My team has discussed concrete ideas with the Government of Lebanon. We leave shortly for Israel, where we will convey these ideas for further discussion,” Vijay Nambiar, the Secretary-General’s Special Political Adviser, told reporters.

“I must stress that this is a first step and much diplomatic work needs to be done before we arrive at any grounds for optimism,” he said.

“Our work will require the support and goodwill for my delegation from all the parties. But they should know that the consequences of failure could indeed be grave,” he warned.

Mr. Nambiar, who is accompanied by Alvaro de Soto and Terje Roed-Larsen, made his remarks after what he described as “a productive round of meetings” with the Speaker of the Lebanese Parliament, Nabih Berri, and Prime Minister Fuad Siniora.

“Our meetings have been very useful and I believe the Lebanese Government has a crucial role to play in restoring peace and security in Lebanon and the region,” Mr. Nambiar said, adding that after conveying the details of these meetings to Israeli officials the team may return to Lebanon to explore these ideas further, although he stressed there was no time to lose.

“Time is of the essence. Creative solutions have to be found in order to prevent a broadening and deepening of the conflict.”

The team, which Secretary-General Kofi Annan decided to send to the region last week, has already visited Egypt on its regional mission and apart from Israel may also travel to Syria, Jordan and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

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