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UN Chief, Syrian President Discuss Lebanon Ceasefire

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus Friday to seek his help in shoring up the Israel-Hezbollah ceasefire in Lebanon.

Mr. Annan was expected to urge Mr. Assad to prevent arms supplies to Hezbollah. Syria is suspected of funneling weapons to the guerrilla group in Lebanon.

On Thursday, the U.N. chief met with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Mualem, who expressed support for the ceasefire. He also called for Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon, and for Israeli officials to lift their air, land and sea blockade of the country.

Israel has said it will not life the blockade until the U.N. ceasefire resolution is fully implemented, including the release of two Israeli soldiers captured by Hezbollah in July.

Mr. Annan says Israel should withdraw from Lebanon once five thousand international troops are deployed in southern Lebanon.

Up to one thousand Italian soldiers are due to arrive in Lebanon as early as Saturday. France says its troops will leave for Lebanon in a few days.