Photo: Dudi Vaaknin
PM Ehud Olmert. Eight-week blockade lifted
Photo: Dudi Vaaknin
Photo: AP
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Peacekeeping forces ready
Photo: AP
Photo: AP
Lebanese Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh
Photo: AP

Israel to lift Lebanon blockade Thursday evening

UN secretary-general, US secretary of state inform PM Olmert that multinational force in Lebanon ready to take over monitoring of Lebanon's air, sea ports. Consequently, Israel announces will withdraw its forces on Thursday at 6 p.m.

Israel to lift Lebanon sea and air blockade: The United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan informed Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Tuesday and Wednesday morning that the multinational force in Lebanon is ready to take over monitoring of the country's sea and air ports.


Pursuant to the announcement, it was decided that Israel would lift the aerial and naval blockade on Lebanon, which have lasted for eight weeks, since the onset of the fighting in the north.


Thursday at 6 p.m., Israel will leave observation posts in the ports. International forces will station themselves there simultaneously. Wednesday night, German security forces are anticipated to arrive at the Beirut airport, with their equipment.


Additionally, the Lebanese government and the UN agreed that German naval forces would deploy along Lebanon's coast. Germany has been waiting for a formal Lebanese request before deploying its naval forces. The Germans will be responsible for enforcing the arms embargo across Lebanese borders.


Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office said that UN Secretary General Kofi Annan clarified that, until the German naval forces arrive approximately two weeks from now, Italian, French, British and Greek forces will be responsible for the enforcement of the embargo along the coast, as part of the international force's duties in the area.


Defense Minister Amir Peretz said that “in recent days, the terms for the lifting of the blockade have been created.” Peretz explained that the Lebanese prime minister addressed some of the multinational forces and asked them to assume responsibility over enforcing the embargo, and added that “we received a request from the Americans, who came to the conclusion that the conditions for lifting the blockade were created.”


He also said that guidelines for the inspection of goods would be set in place, and that German and French forces will enforce them. “I hope they abide by the guidelines," Peretz stated.


Lebanon threatens 

Lebanese Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh said on Wednesday, after reports of negotiations for a possible Israeli withdrawal have already been released, that his country would break Israel's blockade by force if it is not lifted in a 48-hour timeframe indicated by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.


"We will wait for the 48 hours given by Kofi Annan, and if the situation is resolved, we will thank him," Salloukh told journalists on the sidelines of an Arab foreign ministers meeting in Cairo.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan visits in Turkey (Photo: AFP)


"If it is not, the Lebanese government will take the necessary measures and we will break the blockade with all our might," he added.


British airline 'British Mediterranean Airways' announced that it would break Israel's aerial blockade on Lebanon and renew its flights to the country. The airline is part of 'British Airways', a national airline in the UK.  Monday, Qatar announced intentions to renew flights to Beirut.


Annan had told reporters in the Egyptian port city of Alexandria on Tuesday that he hoped for "positive" news within 48 hours in his efforts to persuade Israel to lift the sea and air blockade imposed on Lebanon.


On Wednesday, he repeated his remarks that he hoped for movement on the issue in the next 36 to 48 hours.


Israel has said it could gradually dismantle the blockade as Lebanese and UN forces control entry points to stop the Shiite Islamist group Hizbullah from re-arming, but did not say when restrictions would be eased.


Hanan Greenberg and Reuters contributed to the report


פרסום ראשון: 09.06.06, 17:36
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