Kofi Annan on Wednesday called for participants at a Mideast conference to
push for an immediate cease-fire to end fighting between Israel and Hezbollah
guerrillas, and said that an international force is vital to a peaceful
The UN chief said Hezbollah must stop its "deliberate targeting of Israeli
population centers" and that Israel must end all bombing, ground operations and
blockades of Lebanese ports.
Senior officials from the United States, Europe and several Arab nations met
to work on a plan for ending more than two weeks of fighting, even as Israeli
troops and Hezbollah continued to clash.
US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice talks to
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan at La Farnesina Foreign
Ministry in Rome, Wednesday, July 26, 2006. Senior officials from the
United States, Europe and several Arab nations met in Rome Wednesday with
the aim of agreeing on a plan for ending more than two weeks of fighting
between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas in southern Lebanon.
Much of the discussion will likely focus on efforts by the Europeans and
others to overcome strong US and British opposition to an immediate cease-fire.
The Americans are against a quick truce, arguing that a cessation of violence
must also lead to a durable peace and ensure that Hezbollah is no longer a
threat to Israel.
In a first sign of a concrete proposal, Italian Foreign Minister Massimo
D'Alema called on participants to agree on an international donors conference
for the reconstruction of Lebanon, his spokesman, Pasquale Ferrara, told
The foreign ministers and other senior officials from 15 nations, as well as
Annan and representatives from the European Union and the World Bank, will also
discuss the possible deployment of a multinational force to stabilize Lebanon's
border with Israel and help disarm Hezbollah guerrillas.
The meeting comes as the violence threatens to spiral further. Over the past
day, ground fighting intensified, Hezbollah's leader threatened to strike deeper
into Israel, and Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, warned the conflict
could trigger "a hurricane" of broader fighting in the Middle East.
An Israeli airstrike on a UN observation post in southern Lebanon that killed
four unarmed UN observers is also likely to further fuel international demands
for an immediate cease-fire.
Annan said the airstrike late Tuesday was "apparently deliberate" and
demanded an investigation. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called Annan on
Wednesday to express his "deep regret over the mistaken killing," Olmert's
Officials in Brussels told The Associated Press that Javier Solana, the EU
foreign and security affairs chief, will propose that a rapid reaction force be
established. It would ideally be built around French, German and Spanish troops,
supplemented by forces from Turkey, the Netherlands, Canada and Arab states such
as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, EU officials said.