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Israel Rejects Call by UN Chief for Lifting Lebanon Blockade


Israel has rejected another call by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan for the lifting of its blockade of Lebanon.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says the blockade will end only upon full implementation of the U.N. resolution that ended the month-long Israel-Hezbollah war.

He said the same holds for the complete withdrawal of Israeli troops from southern Lebanon.

Mr. Olmert said full implementation of the ceasefire includes the release of two Israeli soldiers captured by Hezbollah in July.

The Israeli prime minister spoke Wednesday at a news conference in Jerusalem alongside Mr. Annan, who said lifting the blockade is necessary to help Lebanon recover from the war. The two had earlier met for talks.

Afterward, Mr. Annan flew to Jordan, where he meets Thursday with Jordan's King Abdullah.

Mr. Annan will also visit Syria and Iran - Hezbollah's principal backers and suppliers - during his Mideast tour, which is aimed at shoring up the ceasefire in Lebanon.

In Beirut, Hezbollah official Mohammed Fneish said Wednesday there would be no unconditional release of the Israeli soldiers. He said Hezbollah will free the soldiers as part of a prisoner exchange with Israel. Israel has rejected a swap.

U.S. civil rights leader Jesse Jackson said Wednesday he has gotten the impression that the two, plus an Israeli soldier captured by Hamas gunmen in June, are alive.

Jackson, in the region to help secure the soldiers' release, has met in recent days with leaders of Hezbollah and Hamas.

And the top U.N. humanitarian aid official Jan Egeland has condemned Israel's use of cluster bombs in the final days of its offensive in Lebanon.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.
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