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Annan To Appoint ‘Facilitator’ In Prisoner Release

Annan To Appoint ‘Facilitator’ In Israeli-Lebanese Prisoner Release; Awaits Blockade News

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today he would appoint a “facilitator” to assist in the release of Israeli and Lebanese prisoners abducted during the recent conflict, adding he was also hoping for "positive" news in the next 48 hours on whether Israel would lift its air and sea blockade on Lebanon.

Mr. Annan, currently in Egypt on the latest leg of his regional initiative to shore up support for resolution 1701 that ended the month of fighting, made his comments after meeting with President Hosni Mubarak and Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit in Alexandria.

“With regards to the abducted Israeli soldiers and the Lebanese prisoners, I have accepted to appoint a facilitator who will work with the two parties to find a solution to this problem, and I am hopeful that my facilitator will be ale to work expeditiously with the parties to come forward with a mutually acceptable solution for both parties.

The blockade of Lebanon “has been one of the issues on my agenda right from the beginning and I know it is very important for the Lebanese government and for the people of the region. I don’t want to raise any false hopes but I hope that within the next 48 hours we will have some news on that – constructive and positive news.”

Following his talks so far in the region, which have included high-level discussions in Lebanon, Israel, the Palestinian occupied territory, Syria, Iran as well as with other regional players, Mr. Annan said he was “quite satisfied” and convinced that countries would work for the full implementation of resolution 1701, although challenges remained.

“It is important that we work together to pacify Lebanon and its relations with Israel – but not stay there – and move on to work on peace on the other tracks – Palestinian in particular, and the Syrian track. And I am convinced that with that determined effort we can succeed. The ceasefire is fragile, but I believe we are taking steps to consolidate it, he said.

“We need to solve the issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We need to look at comprehensive peace in the region based on UN resolutions and the concept of ‘land for peace.’”

>From Egypt, Mr. Annan flew later to Turkey.

Ends

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