UN chief Kofi Annan has said that Israel and Lebanon's Hezbollah, which fought a fierce month-long war have accepted United Nations mediation on two captured Israeli soldiers.
"Both parties have accepted the good offices of the secretary general to help resolve this problem," he told a press conference in the Red Sea city of Jeddah on Sunday after talks with Saudi leaders.
"I will work with the parties and I will designate someone to work discreetly and quietly with them to find a solution," he said. "I will not even tell you the name of the person ... Because I want him to be able to work discreetly."
Annan stressed that "the only (thing) I insisted on is that if I am going to use my good offices, then my mediator should be the only mediator. If others get involved, we will pull out because you would get wires crossed."
The Shiite guerrilla group Hezbollah's capture of the two Israeli soldiers on July 12 sparked a massive Israeli onslaught against Lebanon until a ceasefire under UN Resolution 1701 took effect on August 14.
Hezbollah demands Israel's release of Lebanese prisoners in exchange for the soldiers.
In Israel, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's spokeswoman Miri Eisin reacted swiftly to Annan's announcement to distance the Jewish state from any agreement with Hezbollah on a negotiating process.
"Israel does not agree on anything together with Hezbollah. 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," she said.