Accessibility links

Breaking News

UN Chief Hopeful About Israel-Lebanon Crisis


U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan says he is hopeful that Israel will completely lift its air and sea blockade on Lebanon in the next 48 hours. Mr. Annan made the comments to reporters after meeting with Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak in Alexandria.

On Monday, Lebanon's parliament decided to refer the Israeli blockade to the U.N. Security Council.

Israel has continued a blockade on Lebanese seaports and airspace since its 34-day war with Hezbollah ended on August 14. Israel says it is necessary to secure Lebanese borders and prevent arms shipments to Hezbollah.

Lebanon says the blockade is delaying aid efforts and hampering attempts to revive its battered economy. Last week Mr. Annan failed to win Israeli consent to end the blockade, but today, he says he is expecting some good news.

"I do not want to raise any false hopes, but I hope within the next 48 hours we will have some news on that, constructive and positive, because we are all working very hard and with a bit of goodwill and reasonableness we should be able to resolve it within the next 48 hours," he said.

Israel is allowing only Lebanese and Jordanian commercial flights to land in Beirut, but these flights must first stop in Amman before continuing to the Lebanese capital. Flights from Egypt and Jordan carrying medical supplies and food have also been permitted.

Mr. Annan said he would be appointing a mediator to facilitate the release of two Israeli soldiers abducted by Hezbollah, as well as the release of Lebanese prisoners held by Israel. He said the international community had to work together to achieve lasting peace in the Middle East.

"The war in Lebanon has been a wake-up call for many leaders around the world and they are becoming more and more convinced that we need to deal with the root causes of the problem," said Mr. Annan. "We need to settle the issue of Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we need to look at comprehensive peace in the region, based on U.N. resolutions, and the concept of land for peace."

Mr. Annan will also be meeting with Arab League Secretary-General Amr Mouusa to discuss an Arab peace plan that is scheduled to be presented to the United Nations this month.