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Annan: Israel's Blockade of Lebanon Should End by Thursday


U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan says he expects Israel to lift its air, land and sea blockade of Lebanon by Thursday.

Speaking to reporters in the Egyptian city of Alexandria Tuesday, Mr. Annan said he expects the blockade issue to be resolved within the next 48 hours.

Israel has said the blockade will remain in effect until international troops are in place in Lebanon, and steps are taken to stop the supply of arms to Hezbollah guerrillas. Mr. Annan did not explain his optimistic comments fully.

Reporters who spoke with him as he left a meeting in Alexandria with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak quote the secretary-general as saying he expects "a bit of good will and reasonableness" will resolve the blockade dispute.

The Lebanese government says the U.N. Security Council should take up the issue, because Israel's blockade violates the resolution that brought to an end a month of fighting between Israel and Hezbollah.

A number of Lebanese legislators are holding a sit-in in parliament in Beirut, to protest the blockade. Monday, Mr. Annan said Israel and Hezbollah have agreed to accept U.N. mediation in their dispute over prisoners, which remains unresolved.

The five-week war began immediately after Hezbollah's abduction of two Israeli soldiers on July 12th. The militant group says it wants to swap those captives for Lebanese prisoners held by Israel.

Mr. Annan is in Egypt on the last leg of a Mideast tour aimed at shoring up the ceasefire in Lebanon that took effect on August 14th.

Information for this report is provided by AP and AFP.

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