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Exchange of fire along Israel/Lebanon Blue Line

Annan, deploring fighting, appeals for calm along Israel/Lebanon Blue Line

Deploring "in the strongest terms" the exchange of fire across the Blue Line between Israel and Lebanon yesterday, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan appealed for a return to calm and called on all parties to exercise maximum restraint.

The hostilities, which resulted in the reported deaths of several Hizbollah fighters and an unconfirmed number of wounded on both sides, were initiated from the Lebanese side and quickly spread along the entire Blue Line with Israeli civilian areas reportedly being targeted, according to a UN spokesman.

The UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) has brokered a ceasefire to prevent further escalation, he added.

"The Secretary-General appeals to all parties to respect the Blue Line in its entirety," the spokesman said. "He also calls on the Government of Lebanon to extend its authority over all of its territory in accordance with Security Council resolutions."

In his latest report to the Security Council on the activities of UNIFIL, Mr. Annan recommended continuing the mission's mandate because the occasional exchange of fire between the Hizbollah militia and Israel in the Shab'a farms area demonstrates that the situation remains volatile and fragile with a potential for deteriorating at any time.

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