Annan to meet kidnapped soldiers' families

annan 88 (photo credit: )
annan 88
(photo credit: )
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan accepted a request from Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on Wednesday to meet with the families of kidnapped soldiers Ehud Goldwasser, Eldad Regev and Gilad Shalit and send representatives to try to bring about their release. Livni came to New York for a 12-hour lightning visit in hopes of advancing Israel's interests in talks on implementing the cease-fire in Lebanon, expediting the deployment of international forces and bringing about the return of the kidnapped Israeli soldiers. "The fact that the kidnapped soldiers have not been released by Hizbullah is a clear violation of UN Resolution 1701 and I expect the international community to continue acting to bring about their immediate release," Livni told Annan. Livni received a commitment from Annan that 3,500 international soldiers would be deployed in Lebanon within "seven to 10 days." She told the secretary-general that Israel expected the force to be made up of "quality soldiers with real military abilities who come from appropriate countries." The main difference of opinion between Israel and Annan is over who was given the obligation to disarm Hizbullah in Resolution 1701. Livni believes it is the international forces that must do the task, but Annan believes it should be the Lebanese army. Israeli officials reportedly decided that despite the cease-fire and the expected deployment of a Lebanese force on Thursday, the IDF would destroy trucks carrying weapons coming to Lebanon from Syria. "It's crucial that the international community and Lebanese government prevent [Hizbullah]'s rearmament," Livni said at a press conference following her meeting with Annan. "We must ensure that the binding embargo established in the resolution is fully enforced so Syria and Iran are prevented from arming Hizbullah. The world cannot allow itself to repeat the omission of the past and allow Hizbullah to rise again and threaten the region. The ball is now in the court of Lebanon and the international community." During her brief stay in New York, Livni also met with American ambassador to the UN John Bolton, New York Senator Hillary Clinton, former secretary of state Henry Kissinger and American Jewish leaders. In a speech at Ben-Gurion Airport to new immigrants from English-speaking countries, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert praised the governments of the United States, England and Canada for their support during the war. "The last few weeks were not easy, although we have to admit that this time, unlike many other times in the past, the State of Israel was not isolated and was not alone," Olmert said. "A large part of the international community supported the State of Israel and justified the actions that the State of Israel took in order to defend our people. America, Canada and Great Britain were among those who supported the State of Israel throughout this month, without hesitation, all along the way."