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UN steps up bid to secure release of Israeli soldiers
Cat : Israel and Zionism
Date : 2006-09-05 18:32:17                      Reader : 288

How can 3 Israeli soldiers be more important than Palestinian civilians and diplomatic core? What logic the world have? What about human rights violations by capturing civilians and official governmental and legislative authorities?! Where is UN,EU, NGO'S defending human rights?

Associated France Press 5/9/2006

UN steps up bid to secure release of Israeli soldiers
by Joelle Bassoul

ALEXANDRIA, Egypt (AFP) - UN chief Kofi Annan has been holding talks in Egypt as he cranked up efforts to secure the release of Israeli soldiers held captive by Palestinian and Lebanese militants and shore up a fragile truce in Lebanon.

Annan's marathon tour of the region has yielded some results, with Qatar becoming the first Arab country to pledge troops to a UN peacekeeping force for war-ravaged, but he failed in a bid to end Israel's punishing blockade of the country despite the ceasefire.

Annan announced Monday during a trip to Saudi Arabia that both Israel and Hezbollah had agreed to negotiate the release of two Israeli soldiers whose capture by the Lebanese militia on July 12 sparked a month-long war.

"Both parties have accepted the good offices of the secretary general to help resolve this problem," Annan told a press conference in the Red Sea city of Jeddah after talks with Saudi leaders.

He said he would appoint a special mediator to work on a prisoner release deal.

Hezbollah is demanding that Israel release Lebanese prisoners in exchange for the soldiers but the Jewish state made it clear it would not negotiate directly with the Shiite movement, which it considers a terrorist organisation.

"Israel sees the Lebanese government and the UN, within the framework of Resolution 1701, as the only ones responsible for the unconditional release of the kidnapped soldiers," an Israeli spokeswoman said.

Resolution 1701, which paved the way for a ceasefire on August 14, demands the unconditional release of the two Israeli soldiers.

More than 1,200 people were killed in Lebanon, mainly civilians, and 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers, in the 34-day conflict.

In an interview published Tuesday by the Lebanese newspaper As-Safir, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said his militants would not disarm -- as demanded by the UN resolution -- but promised they would only use their weapons if Israel attacked.

"The Resistance (the armed wing of Hezbollah) will only use its rockets in case of an Israeli attack and war against Lebanon," he said.

Annan held talks Tuesday with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, the official MENA news agency reported.

The UN chief was also expected to meet Arab League secretary general Amr Mussa although details of the talks were not immediately available.

Discussions were expected to focus on the fate of a third Israeli soldier abducted on June 25 by Gaza militant groups, including the armed wing of the governing Palestinian movement Hamas.

Abul Gheit told reporters Monday that the release of the soldier -- whose capture sparked a massive Israeli military onslaught on the Gaza Strip and caused the territory's closure -- could be a matter of hours or days.

An Israeli newspaper reported Sunday that Egypt was mediating a deal whereby Israel could release up to 800 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the Israeli corporal.

Quoting unnamed security officials, Israel's mass-selling Yediot Aharonot said Israel would release the prisoners in three stages and that the negotiations were being held up over the timetable of the prisoner release.

Besides Saudi Arabia, Annan has already visited Qatar, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, Syria and Iran as part of his regional tour. He is due in Turkey later Tuesday after his talks in Egypt.

In Doha on Monday, Annan secured Qatar's agreement to contribute troops to the UN peacekeeping force being deployed in south Lebanon, the first Arab nation to do so although several Muslim states have offered help.

The troop pledge was intended to "tell the world that there is an Arab presence, however small, and to say to Israel that we believe in this resolution and that we want to implement it," Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabr al-Thani said.

So far the bulk of the force, which could eventually include as many as 15,000 troops, is made up of European soldiers, with Italy and France contributing the largest contingents.

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