UNITED NATIONS – Secretary-General Kofi Annan will travel to the Middle East later this week, visiting Lebanon, Israel and most likely Syria and Iran to try to garner support for the U.N. resolution that led to the fragile Israeli-Hezbollah cease-fire, the U.N. said Wednesday.
Annan's first stop will be in Brussels for a meeting Friday of European Union foreign ministers that will discuss the EU's contribution to an expanded U.N. peacekeeping force in south Lebanon, Hezbollah's stronghold. The U.N. has appealed for European troops to balance pledges from several Muslim countries to make the force broadly acceptable to the Israelis and Lebanese.
From Brussels, the secretary-general will travel to Lebanon and Israel to encourage full implementation of Resolution 1701 which was adopted on Aug. 11, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
The sequence of stops is being worked out, Dujarric said.
The U.N. resolution calls for a 15,000-strong U.N. force to support the deployment of 15,000 Lebanese army soldiers into southern Lebanon for the first time, and help monitor Israel's withdrawal. It also calls for strict monitoring of Lebanon's borders and bans the shipment of arms to Hezbollah or any other armed militia.
Dujarric said the secretary-general would likely visit Syria and Iran because they have influence on key players in Lebanon and are important to the full implementation of the resolution.
Both countries are strong backers of Hezbollah and supplied weapons used in the 34-day war.
"We need to talk to all those countries that have a role and influence," Dujarric said.