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(photo credit: AP)
Family members of the kidnapped IDF soldiers said Tuesday evening that UN Secretary General Kofi Annan had no new information for them regarding their loved ones.
"He promised to help us," said Karnit Goldwasser, wife of captive reserve soldier Ehud Goldwasser.
"(Annan) also said that he would make efforts to help Gilad Shalit's family, and not just our families," Karnit added.
Kofi Annan arrived for talks with Israeli leaders Tuesday, as part of a Mideast tour aimed at shoring up the UN-brokered cease-fire.
During the visit, Annan met with families of the three kidnapped IDF soldiers. The families were hoping that Annan would do more to pressure Hizbullah on the issue. They also hoped that such pressure would, at the very least, result in the International Red Cross gaining access to the soldiers.
"We ask (Annan) to act toward releasing our soldiers," Eldad Regev's brother, Benny, said before the meeting with Annan. "The UN decided that Lebanon and the Lebanese government and Hizbullah must release the soldiers without any conditions. This was the resolution. We expect him to act toward achieving it."
The family members also appealed for word on the soldiers' conditions.
"They must first of all give us a sign of life. (Annan) must act toward that. It's a moral demand that's basic in any negotiations," Benny Regev said.
"I know that Kofi Annan is an important man ... he has a lot of power and influence and he can speak to the government in Lebanon," said Karnit Goldwasser, Ehud Goldwasser's wife.
They also were expected to ask him to back down from his demand that Israel lift its blockade of Lebanon, for fear that an end to the siege would allow Hizbullah to move its captives out of Lebanon.
Israel's UN Ambassador Dan Gillerman said the meeting between Annan and the families carried important symbolism.
"I hope that he will leave here with a real feeling of obligation, of a moral mission to do everything he can - and he is going to several capitals in which there is influence on this matter - to bring about Udi, Eldad and Gilad's speedy return home," Gillerman told reporters.
He also met with Defense Minister Amir Peretz and as expected, had appealed for Israel to lift the blockade.
Annan, who spoke after meeting with Peretz, said Israel was responsible for most of the violations of the fragile cease-fire that ended the 34-days of fighting between Israel and Hizbullah guerrillas in southern Lebanon.
"We need to resolve the issue of the abducted soldiers very quickly," Annan said during his visit to Naqoura in south Lebanon. "We need to deal with the lifting of the embargo - sea, land and air - which for the Lebanese is a humiliation and an infringement on their sovereignty."
However, Israel has said it will only reopen access to Lebanon once it is assured forces deployed on Lebanon's borders can stop the weapons flow to Hizbullah guerrillas. Israel wants to see international forces patrolling the Lebanon-Syria border, along with Lebanese troops, arguing that Syria is one of Hizbullah's main arms suppliers.
However, Lebanon has said only its troops will be posted on that border.
"Israel will be happy to stop the sea and aerial blockade if we felt that the land crossings would not be the main smuggling routes," said government spokeswoman Miri Eisen. "Israel is certain that if there is no serious force to stop (smuggling), both Syria and Iran will continue to back, fund and arm Hizbullah in Lebanon."
Eisen said that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert would also call for "the unconditional return of our captives in Lebanon" during his meeting with Annan.
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