French FM calls for Israel to end blockade of Lebanon

Philippe Douste-Blazy: "Imperative that Lebanese army deploy quickly."

douste blazy 88 (photo credit: )
douste blazy 88
(photo credit: )
French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy on Wednesday called for Israel to lift its air, naval and land blockade of Lebanon, saying it was unnecessary with the UN cease-fire plan holding. "The blockade imposed on the airport and Lebanese ports should be lifted. We ask Israeli authorities to lift the land and sea siege on Lebanon. And we ask the Lebanese government to strengthen monitoring" of points of entry to insure Hizbullah weapons are banned, he said. "There is no longer a reason for Israel to continue the blockade," he said. "Israel cannot allow a situation in which Hizbullah could be strategically rearmed," Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said. In the interim, Regev said, "Israel will do everything we can to facilitate the flow of humanitarian aid to the people of Lebanon." Douste-Blazy was in Beirut to discuss French participation in a UN peacekeeping force to help police the cease-fire. The blockade was instituted shortly after fighting began July 12, when Israel bombed the Beirut international airport, blocked seaports and began destroying road links to Syria. Douste-Blazy encouraged Israel to continue its withdrawal from south Lebanon and said it was imperative that the Lebanese army deploy quickly. He said France would commit troops to the UN peacekeeping force, but did not say how many. France was expected to take a leading role in the force that the UN cease-fire plan said should be 15,000-strong, with an equal number from the Lebanese military. He said France had 1,700 soldiers on warships in the region and 200 already serving in the 2,000-strong force permanently in the south.