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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Israel denies Annan claim that Lebanon blockade to be lifted within 48 hours

UN Secretary General Kofi Goofy Annan yesterday told anyone who would listen that Israel is going to lift its air and sea blockade of Lebanon within 48 hours.
Annan was optimistic that the blockade would end this week, he said, “because we are all working very hard; and with a bit of goodwill and reasonableness, we should be able to resolve it within the next 48 hours.”
There's only one problem: Israel is denying the report.
Israeli officials were more reserved in their assessment, however. Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev told the AFP news service that Israel would not lift the blockade until it is clear that U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701 is being implemented.

"When the Lebanese government, augmented by international forces is ready to enforce the arms embargo against [Hizbullah] Israel will be ready to lift restrictions on movement of people and cargo," said Regev.

Resolution 1701 calls for the establishment between the Blue Line and the Litani River of an area free of any armed personnel, and the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon. It also calls for preventing Hizbullah from obtaining new arms from Syria and Iran. Under the resolution, the Lebanese government would enforce the arms embargo, together with a newly-expanded United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL); however, the Lebanese government has been clear, that it does not intend to disarm Hizbullah.

Currently, all flights into Beirut International Airport must be coordinated with Israeli authorities prior to arrival. The Lebanese national airline, Middle East Airlines, and the Royal Jordanian airline are the only two carriers allowed to conduct regular flights into and out of the country.
Goofy's overly optimistic assessments remind me of former Israeli foreign minister Shlomo Ben Ami.


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