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Kofi Annan Arrives in Israel


U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan is in Israel after meeting with Lebanese officials and visiting U.N. peacekeeping operations. Mr. Annan will hold talks Wednesday with Israeli leaders in his continuing effort to bolster the U.N.-mediated ceasefire in southern Lebanon.

Kofi Annan is to meet with Israel's leaders and the families of two Israeli soldiers, whose abduction by Hezbollah militants sparked the 34-day conflict in Lebanon. The U.N. secretary general is also to talk with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

The U.N. chief is urging Israeli leaders to lift their air and sea blockade of Lebanon - something Israeli officials say they will not do until U.N. peacekeepers can enforce an arms embargo on Hezbollah. Mr. Annan says all efforts should be made to make sure the ceasefire holds.

"We do not want to back to a situation where we can have an explosion in six months or six years. Let us make that this time it [ceasefire] is for the good, and it requires both sides to cooperate," said Mr. Annan.

Mr. Annan is also calling for Hezbollah to release the two Israeli soldiers. He is expected to travel to Syria and Iran - Hezbollah's two main allies in the next few days.

Earlier in the day, Mr. Annan visited a U.N. base in southern Lebanon that is expected to be the headquarters for the 15,000-member U.N. force in Lebanon. Mr. Annan took part in a memorial service for five U.N. peacekeepers killed by an Israeli air strike during the fighting.

European Union member states have pledged about 7,000 troops to the international force. A number of Muslim countries, including Bangladesh, Indonesia and Malaysia have also said they will contribute, although Israel has objected to any nations taking part that do not have diplomatic relations with the Jewish state.

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