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UN Chief Urges Israel to Lift Blockade of Lebanon


U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan is urging Israel to lift its air, land and sea blockade of Lebanon.

Mr. Annan said during a stop in southern Lebanon Tuesday the blockade is humiliating to the Lebanese people. Israeli officials say they will not lift the blockade until U.N. peacekeepers deployed on Lebanon's borders can stop arms shipments to Hezbollah guerrillas.

In Israel Tuesday Mr. Annan held talks with Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz. Afterwards the U.N. chief said Israel is responsible for most of the violations of the two-week-old ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Information for this report is provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

Peretz said Israel will pull its troops out of Lebanon when what he called a "reasonable" number of international troops are deployed along Lebanon's borders.

Mr. Annan said the U.N. hoped to double its 25-hundred-strong force in southern Lebanon by Friday.

Also Tuesday, Secretary-General Annan met with the families of two Israeli soldiers captured by Hezbollah in July, triggering the month-long war. The families asked Mr. Annan to press for the soldiers' release.

On Wednesday, Mr. Annan will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Mr. Annan is on a Middle East tour aimed at shoring up the ceasefire that ended the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah. He will also visit Syria and Iran -- the top supporters of Hezbollah.

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