Iranian FM urges ceasefire, prisoner swap to end Israel-Lebanon crisis

Visiting Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki on Monday urged for a ceasefire and a prisoner swap to end an escalating crisis between Israel and Lebanon.

"There can be a ceasefire between the two sides, which will be followed by an exchange of prisoners," said Mottaki after a meeting with Syrian Vice President Farouk al-Shara.

Mottaki also called for "a reasonable and fair" way to resolve the current crisis.

Meanwhile, Syria's official SANA news agency reported that Mottaki also held a meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the two sides "expressed support to the Lebanese and Palestinian resistance against Israel."

Mottaki presented Assad a message from his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who also lent support to Syria in the face of any threat or attack, SANA said.

Both sides also stressed the necessity to continue consultations between the two friendly countries regarding current issues, it added.

Violence between Israel and Lebanon broke out on July 12 when the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hizbollah kidnapped two Israeli soldiers and killed eight during cross-border clashes.

In response, Israel launched a massive offensive in Lebanon while Hizbollah retaliated with rocket salvos targeting Israeli cities.

Israel, together with its ally the United States, blamed Damascus and Tehran for backing Hizbollah. There is also some speculation that Israel might attack Syria as the Israeli army fired rockets onto no-man areas between Lebanon and Syria on Saturday.

Syria said on Sunday that it would respond "directly and harshly" if it was attacked by Israel although Israel's head of military operations General Gadi Azincot said that Syria was not an objective of the ongoing Israeli operation in Lebanon.

"Any Israeli attack against Syria will provoke an unlimited, direct and firm response using all means necessary," said Syrian Information Minister Mohsen Bilal.

Also on Sunday, Iran warned Israel of "unimaginable losses" if it attacked Syria.

Hizbollah has demanded Israel release Palestinian and Arab prisoners held in Israeli jails in return for the two soldiers, but Israel has so far rejected it.

Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora on Saturday urged the United Nations to mediate a ceasefire with Israel.

On Sunday, Italian Prime Minister Roman Prodi conveyed to Lebanon Israel's two conditions for halting military moves -- the release of the two captured Israel soldiers and Hizbollah's withdrawal from the border area.

Source: Xinhua

People's Daily Online ---