Annan calls for IDF soldiers' release

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
August 28, 2006 16:39

UN head meets with Hizbullah minister in Beirut; Italy, Turkey to send troops.

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UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan chided both Israel and Hizbullah on Monday, saying they could not "choose and pick" parts of a UN cease-fire resolution to implement. Visiting Beirut on the first leg of an 11-day Mideast tour, Annan called UN resolution 1701 "a fixed menu." "It's not a buffet.... It's not an a la carte menu where you choose and pick. We have to implement 1701 in its entirety and I hope that all parties will pay attention and act in that spirit," he said. "Without the full implementation of resolution 1701, I fear the risk is great for renewal of hostilities." The top UN diplomat also said he was renewing his "call for the abducted soldiers [Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev] to be free." He urged Hizbullah to transfer them to the Lebanese government "or a third party" under the auspices of the international Red Cross. "We, the UN, will be prepared to play a role if we are required to do so. And I offer our services," he said. Annan also met with Hizbullah Cabinet Minister Mohammed Fneish on Monday, in the first direct contact with the guerrilla group during his Lebanon visit, a Lebanese government official said. According to the official, they were joined by Geir Pedersen, Annan's special representative for Lebanon. Israel said earlier Monday that a resolution of the conflict must include the release of the two IDF soldiers. "So long as this issue with the two soldiers is not solved, the whole thing is of little significance," Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said in Germany. "Our sovereignty has been infringed and if this resolution does not make that good, then we still have this problem." Meanwhile, the Apcom news agency, citing government officials, reported Monday that Italy plans to send 2,500 troops to serve in the UN peacekeeping mission in southern Lebanon. Premier Romano Prodi has been at the forefront of efforts to get other European nations to contribute to the mission, and Annan has asked Italy to command the Lebanon force from February 2007, after France. Earlier Monday, Turkey's Cabinet also decided in favor of sending peacekeepers to Lebanon and planned to seek the parliament's approval for the deployment. Parliament was expected to convene to debate the deployment this week or next week, said government spokesman Cemil Cicek. "In principle, we've decided to join the UN peacekeeping mission," Cicek said. Annan arrived in Beirut Monday morning, saying that it was "a very critical time" for the country. He was set to meet with Lebanese leaders and visit with UN peacekeepers deployed in southern Lebanon during his two-day stay. He also was expected to visit Israel, and Hizbullah's main supporters, Syria and Iran. After being met at the airport by Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh, Annan told reporters, "I think it's important that I come here myself to discuss with the Lebanese authorities the aftermath of the war and the measures we need to take to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1701 and to underscore international solidarity."


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