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UN Chief Satisfied Lebanon Implementing Ceasefire Resolution


After a meeting with the Lebanese Prime Minister and other top officials, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan says he is satisfied Lebanon is committed to the U.N. resolution that halted more than a month of fighting between Hezbollah militants and Israel. The U.N. chief began a tour of the Middle East in Beirut.

Mr. Annan says the August 14 ceasefire has been holding remarkably well, but he warned full implementation of the U.N. resolution that ended the fighting is necessary.

"Without the full implementation of Resolution 1701, I feel the risk is great for a renewal of hostilities," said Kofi Annan.

He reiterated the importance of the Lebanese government extending its control to south Lebanon, and said only the army and UNIFIL forces should have weapons.

"In Lebanon, there should be, as we all have agreed, one law; one authority; one gun," he said.

Mr. Annan goes to Israel on Tuesday, and said he will ask the government there to lift its six-week air, land, and sea blockade of Lebanon. Israel says the blockade is keeping new weapons from reaching Hezbollah terrorists; the Lebanese say it is choking their economy and causing humanitarian suffering.

"We are working for the lifting of the siege, and I have been discussing it with the Israeli authorities and other international partners, and I will discuss it when I am in Israel tomorrow," said U.N. Secretary-General. "And I would hope to see some movement on that in the not too distant future. I hope we will have some positive news."

Mr. Annan said he also expects a solution soon to the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah fighters, who triggered the month-long war with a cross border raid that also killed several Israeli soldiers.

European nations have committed nearly 9,000 troops to the U.N. force in south Lebanon, known as UNIFIL, and Mr. Annan says he expects the first phase of 3,500 troops to arrive very soon. A small contingent of French soldiers has already arrived in the country.

Mr. Annan says he expects Islamic countries to contribute troops to UNIFIL. Israel says it does not want Muslim countries to participate if they do not have diplomatic relations with Jerusalem. Malaysia and Indonesia have volunteered to take part but do not have diplomatic ties with Israel.

Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora says he fully supports the U.N. resolution.

"Lebanon as well is committed that its army of 15,000 - strong will be deployed in the south, and we are very keen on our full control of our borders," said Fuad Siniora.

Israel has called for the UNIFIL force to deploy along the Lebanese-Syrian border, but Mr. Annan and Mr. Siniora said there are no plans for such a deployment. The Lebanese army will be responsible for security along the border and prevention of arms smuggling.

Mr. Annan said he hopes neighboring states will fully cooperate in resolving issues related to the borders. He said he would take this up during his tour of the region. He goes to Syria on Thursday.

After his meetings, Mr. Annan toured the southern Shiite suburbs of Beirut that sustained heavy damage during 34 days of Israeli airstrikes. He also paid a visit to the grave of slain former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The United Nations is leading an investigation into who is responsible for the car bomb attack that killed the former Lebanese leader in 2004.

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