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UN, Lebanese Troops Deployed by Mid-September

UN, Lebanese Troops Deployed by Mid-September Should Allow Israeli Pullout -- Annan

New York, Sep 4 2006 7:00PM

The deployment of a credible presence of United Nations and Lebanese troops in southern Lebanon by mid-September should allow for Israel to withdraw, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today in Saudi Arabia.

"I expect that by mid-September, we'll have about 5,000 international troops on the ground, and they will be deployed to the south with the 16,000 Lebanese troops," he told a joint press conference with Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister, Prince Saud Al-Faisal. "And with that credible force on the ground at that time, Israel should be able to withdraw its forces completely."

He said the pullout of Israeli forces is critical to regional stability. "As long as they are in southern Lebanon some Lebanese will rightly see that as an occupation and there could be miscalculation an accident could occur so we need to have a clear situation where the Israelis fully withdraw and international and Lebanese forces taking over that territory."

The Secretary-General also emphasized that the UN and Lebanese forces will be necessary to ensure that progress so far is maintained. "What is important is that the cessation of hostilities, which was declared on the 14th of August, has, on the whole, held very well. But it is fragile and we need to move on as rapidly as we can to consolidate it, and this is why we are pressing ahead with the rapid deployment of the international troops to assist the government and the Lebanese army to extend its authority throughout the south."

He also urged attention to the fundamental problems plaguing the region. "The key issue and the root cause that we should deal with is Palestine, the lifting of the air, sea, and land blockade, and the issue of the borders of Lebanon and the question of Shabaa Farms," he said.

"I myself have urged consistently that Israel lifts the embargo, and I hope that it will be done sooner rather than later, because it is necessary for a country that
there has to be free movement of people and goods for it to be able to handle this urgent task," he said, repeating a call he has made throughout the trip, which has taken him to Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Syria, Iran and Qatar.

Mr. Annan said his discussions with leaders in Saudi Arabia had been fruitful and stressed the country's regional and global importance. "When it comes to resolving conflicts, whether it is Lebanon or the Palestinian one, or for that matter Iraq, their views and their weight is important and we need to factor that into whatever scheme we have for resolving it," he said.

Responding to press questions, he said the Saudi leaders had voiced support for the Security Council resolution that ended the hostilities in Lebanon and mandated an expanded UN Interim Force there (UNIFIL). "I did get confirmation that they will cooperate and will support [resolution] 1701 and they will work with Lebanon and the international community to implement it."

The Secretary-General's intensive diplomatic tour takes him next to Egypt and Turkey.


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