Photo: Amos Ben Gershon, GPO
Olmert, Annan in Jerusalem
Photo: Amos Ben Gershon, GPO

Annan: Believe hostages are alive

At conclusion of meeting with PM Olmert, UN secretary-General says bases assumption soldiers are alive on talks with senior Lebanese officials, including Hizbullah ministers. Annan urges Israel to lift Lebanon blockade. Olmert expresses hope for peace with Lebanon

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met Wednesday morning at his home with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. The two discussed the UN's demand that Israeli lift the aerial and naval blockade on Lebanon, and Israel's refusal to do so before the kidnapped soldiers are returned, or at least handed over to the Lebanese government's hands.


At the conclusion of the meeting, Annan said that he believes the kidnapped Israeli soldiers were still alive. He based his information on his talks with senior Lebanese officials, including ministers from Hizbullah.


He promised that he would do everything in his power in order to return them home to their families. I am also a husband and a father, and I understand the pain of the families, he said.

Annan, Olmert after meeting (Photo: GPO)


During the meeting, the PM also raised to discussion the Iranian threat to Israel and the "urgent necessity to deal with it."


Annan said the lifting of the blockade Israel has placed on Lebanon is necessary to help Lebanon's economy recover from the war and to strengthen Lebanon's government. He said the Lebanese authorities assured him they were taking measures to stop the flow of weapons, and that he believes Israel's security concerns can be addressed. "In the meantime, I do believe the blockade should be lifted," Annan said.


Olmert hopes for peace 

Olmert did not respond specifically to Annan's demand, saying only that the ceasefire deal must be implemented in its entirety. "The international community must not divert its attention" until that happens, he said. Annan, meanwhile, said he was working to expand the UN force to be deployed in Lebanon as rapidly as possible.


Olmert, meanwhile, said he hopes the ceasefire will provide an opening for contacts between Israel and Lebanon.


"I hope the conditions will change rapidly to allow direct contact between the government of Israel and the government of Lebanon to hopefully to reach agreement between the two countries," He said.


The ceasefire deal could be "a cornerstone to build a new reality between Israel and Lebanon," He said.


"I hope that as we do that, the Israeli withdrawal will continue and by the time we are at that level, Israel will have fully withdrawn and we will have an effective, credible force that we can continue to build on," he added.


Annan blames Israel for 'most ceasefire violation' 

On Tuesday Annan, arriving in Israel after holding a round of meetings in Lebanon, convened with Defense Minister Amir Peretz.


The UN head expressed his hope that French and Italian forces arrive in the region this Friday, thus allowing the international force to double its presence from 2,500 to 5,000 troops by the weekend.


Annan said that Israel is responsible for most ceasefire violations in southern Lebanon ,


The implementation of Security Council Resolution 1701 is not a minor matter, but rather, an important one, he said, and called on both sides to implement the decision.


Peretz, meanwhile, expressed his hope that the arms embargo on Lebanon will be implemented. He said that he also that in his talk with the UN head he emphasized the need to secure the release of the abducted soldiers, and added that Annan said he viewed it as an important matter.


AP contributed to the report


פרסום ראשון: 08.30.06, 09:41
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