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UN seeks 3-day truce in Lebanon

The ceasefire will help UN evacuate civilians caught in the middle of fighting between Israel and Hezbollah militia.
None | By Indo-Asian News Service, New York
PUBLISHED ON JUL 29, 2006 11:09 AM IST

The United Nations is seeking a 72-hour truce to evacuate Lebanese civilians caught in the middle of fighting between Israel and Hezbollah.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said on Friday he hopes that a temporary cessation of violence would help the humanitarian effort and could lead to negotiations for a long-term ceasefire. It could also help usher in a multinational peace keeping force, he said.

"You will need that cessation of hostilities to put in a force anyway," he said. "And, of course, cease-fire obviously will have to be negotiated, and that may take a while."

Israeli Foreign Ministry Spokesman Gideon Meier said that his country would evaluate the proposal, saying it is important to meet the humanitarian needs of the Lebanese population, but also raised concerns that a truce would allow Hezbollah to rearm.

"The 72 hours of truce would be a period in which we can get generalised access to the people and where those who would want to escape can escape in safety," said Jan Egeland, UN's top official for humanitarian relief, while briefing the Security Council on the proposal he made to Israeli and Lebanese officials.

"We would then be able to have teams going in, ambulances going in, trucks going in and taking people out," he added.

Annan said there could be a meeting as early as Monday to identify countries willing to send troops as part of a multinational force to Lebanon to help stabilise the country and assist with humanitarian relief.

US President George W Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair at a meeting at the White House in Washington called for the creation of an international force.

Annan also said the foreign ministers of countries in the Security Council might also meet next week to address the crisis, but a timeframe has not been set.

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