UN Hopes To Soon Double Its Troops In Lebanon
UN Hopes To Soon Double Its Troops In Lebanon, Annan Says
The United Nations hopes to soon double to 5,000 the number of its troops in southern Lebanon, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today in Israel on the latest leg of his diplomatic tour of the Middle East to increase support for full implementation of Security Council resolution 1701 that ended the recent month-long fighting.
“My hope was that with the French deployment moving forward and the Italians moving in Friday that we should be able to double relatively quickly the 2,500 men that we have on the ground and move up to 5,000 so that the Israelis can withdraw,” he told reporters after meeting Israῥli Defence Minister Amir Peretz in Jerusalem.
“I also raised the question of the blockade of Lebanon which the Lebanese authorities raised with me and which I will also be discussing tomorrow with the Prime Minister. And the need to lift that blockade as soon as possible in order to allow Lebanon to go on with normal commercial activities and also rebuild its economy.”
Mr. Annan, who flew to Israel after two days of high-level meetings in Lebanon, described the cessation of hostilities between Hizbollah and Israel as still being “very fragile,” and he discussed with the Defence Minister the fact that “most” of the violations had come from the Israeli side.
“As I had explained in Lebanon and as I explained it here, 1701 is not a smorgasbord, it is not a buffet, it is a fixed menu. And we have to implement every aspect of that resolution. And that we are expecting both parties to do that,” he said.
“We should all work together to ensure that this time the fragile peace that we are solidifying in Lebanon is for good and that we are not going to see another explosion in six years or twenty years.”
Earlier in the day, during his visit to the headquarters of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), the Secretary-General urged both sides to respect the ceasefire, and take up any complaints with the UN force commander rather than taking matters into their own hands.
While in Jerusalem Mr. Annan also met today with the families of the Israeli soldiers who were abducted last month by Hizbollah and Hamas, a UN spokesman told reporters in New York.