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Annan to Travel to Middle East


The United Nations says Secretary-General Kofi Annan will visit the Middle East soon to strengthen support for the truce between Israel and Hezbollah forces in southern Lebanon. The top U.N. diplomat also hopes to travel to Syria and Iran.

Mr. Annan will meet with senior Israeli and Lebanese officials to encourage both nations to fully implement resolution 17-01, the August 11 Security Council resolution that led to the current truce between Israel and Hezbollah.

U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric says Mr. Annan will also meet officials from the Palestinian Authority and travel to Qatar, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan. Dujarric says the secretary-general will most likely go to Iran and Syria as well.

"The visits to Iran and the other places is to make sure that all of those who have an influence in the implementation of 1701 use that influence positively," she said. "The Iranians need to be part of that dialogue and that is in the spirit the secretary-general is going into."

Mr. Annan's schedule is still being worked out. It is unclear whether he will visit Iran before the August 31 deadline set by the Security Council for Iran to suspend its nuclear enrichment program.

Mr. Annan will go to the Middle East after a meeting in Brussels Friday with European Union foreign ministers to encourage nations to contribute troops to expanded U.N. force. Resolution 1701 calls for expanding the 2,000-strong U.N. force currently in the area to up to 15,000 troops. U.N. peacekeeping officials want 5,500 troops on the ground by the first week of September, but many details concerning the force's mission are still being clarified.

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