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Home >> World
UPDATED: 16:42, August 30, 2006
UN chief promises to do utmost to return captured Israeli soldiers
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UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on Wednesday morning that he'll do everything he can to return the captured Israeli soldiers.

Annan, who arrived in Israel on Tuesday for a two-day visit, made the remarks at a press conference after his meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

Annan said that he believes the kidnapped Israeli soldiers are still alive and he would do everything he can to win their release.

The UN chief added that he has an opportunity of discussing the issue with Hezbollah members of the Lebanese cabinet.

Two Israeli soldiers were kidnapped on July 12 by Lebanon's shiite group Hezbollah, which sparked a 34-day-long conflict between Israel and Hezbollah.

The conflict reached an ceasefire on Aug. 14 thanks to UN Security Council Resolution 1701.

Speaking at the conference, the UN chief called for the full implementation of the Resolution 1701, unconditional release of the captured Israeli soldiers and the lifting of the Israeli air and sea blockade of Lebanon.

In response to a question regarding his anticipated visit to Iran, Annan said that the statement made by the Iranian president regarding Israel as "unacceptable".

Israel is a recognized member of the United Nations and entitled to defend itself, he added.

Annan revealed that during his visit in Iran, he intends to meet with Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Olmert, for his part, said that he hopes the ceasefire deal will constitute the beginning of a new reality between Israel and Lebanon.

On Tuesday, Annan, shortly after his arrival in Israel from Lebanon, met with Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz.

Annan said after the meeting that UN hoped to double its 2,500- strong peace-keeping force in southern Lebanon by Friday, calling on Israel to lift its blockade on Lebanon.

Later on Wednesday, Annan is expected to meet with Israeli Vice Prime Minister Shimon Peres and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.

Afterwards, he will go to the West Bank city of Ramallah for talks with Palestinian leaders and officials.

Israel is the second leg of Annan's Mideast regional tour after Lebanon, which will also take him to Syria or Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan.

Source: Xinhua

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