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Annan Calls for End of Lebanon Blockade, Soldiers' Release


United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has called on Israel to lift its blockade of Lebanon and for Hezbollah to release two captured Israeli soldiers.

Mr. Annan made the plea Monday in Beirut after meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora and a Hezbollah cabinet minister, Mohammed Fneish.

Hezbollah seized the two Israeli soldiers during a cross-border raid July 12th, triggering 34 days of fighting between Israel and Hezbollah.

Mr. Annan said he wanted his trip to underscore international solidarity regarding Lebanon.

During a tour of the bombed-out southern suburbs of Beirut, Mr. Annan was jeered by angry Lebanese, and quickly left the area.

In Israel, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced an inquiry into the conduct of the war, but stopped short of ordering a more powerful state commission.

The Olmert government has been heavily criticized for its alleged mistakes in the military campaign in Lebanon.

Meanwhile, the Italian government approved sending 25-hundred troops for the expanded U.N. peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon.

Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema says the government also approved more than 30-million dollars for civilian, humanitarian and reconstruction efforts in Lebanon.

Turkey also says it has agreed to contribute troops, pending parliamentary approval.

France, which will command the U.N. force in southern Lebanon until early next year, is sending two thousand troops to the force.

U.N. Secretary-General Annan will also visit Israel, Syria and Iran during his Mideast tour.

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