U.N. Chief Visits Lebanon Peacekeepers U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan visits peacekeepers near the Israeli border in southern Lebanon. Annan is urging Hezbollah and Israel to honor a cease-fire agreement. An 11-day Mideast tour will take him to Israel, as well as to Syria and Iran -- Hezbollah's main benefactors.
NPR logo

U.N. Chief Visits Lebanon Peacekeepers

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/5729734/5729735" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
U.N. Chief Visits Lebanon Peacekeepers

U.N. Chief Visits Lebanon Peacekeepers

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/5729734/5729735" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.


And I'm Renee Montagne. In this part of the program, we'll look at the aftermath of Israel's two-front war. In the Gaza Strip, hundreds of Palestinians have been killed in fighting this summer. And in a moment, we'll hear the latest talk about a path to peace. We begin on the other front, in Lebanon, where U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan is visiting United Nations troops.

NPR's Jamie Tarabay is in Beirut. And Jamie, how did Kofi Annan describe the mission of that U.N. force when he finally got there?

JAMIE TARABAY reporting:

Well, he finally was able to spell it out in a way that I guess comforted all the countries who are planning to send troops there. There was a lot of confusion about the rules of engagement that this troop would have, whether there would be an actual mandate to forcibly disarm Hezbollah. Israel really wants Hezbollah to be disarmed, but Kofi Annan said at a news conference yesterday that it was impossible to do that. He said, you know, let's not kid ourselves. There are other ways of disarming a militia than doing it through forceful means.

So he says the U.N. forces are not going to chase anyone down. They're not going to go house-to-house looking for weapons. And he actually said that he thought the cease-fire was holding up remarkably well with the forces on the ground at the moment, and those include about 7,000 Lebanese forces along the border in the south as well.

MONTAGNE: Well now, this may have comforted those countries intending to send troops, but I would think it wouldn't have comforted Israel.

TARABAY: Well, I guess that's something that he's going to have to take up with them when he travels to Israel today. Israel wants international forces along all of Lebanon's border, including the entry points with Israel and with Syria in the north. And that's something that has really upset Syria, and Damascus is threatening to shut down its border with Lebanon if this happens. Syria is also on Kofi Annan's list of countries that he's going to visit in this tour of the region. So he's expected to bring up the issue of weapon smuggling with Syria and also Iran. He'll be there, too.

MONTAGNE: Now yesterday when Kofi Annan visited some of the southern suburbs of Beirut, he was heckled by people there. What exactly happened?

TARABAY: He traveled with Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora to Dahia(ph), which is the area in the south of Beirut that is very Shiite and was very badly bombed during the war with Israel. The whole place really is just a scene of total devastation.

There were plenty of demonstrators waiting for them when they arrived under very, very tight security. Many of the people there were holding up posters of Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah. They were chanting slogans supporting Nasrallah. And then they began booing Kofi Annan. And I guess the intensity of the demonstration really worried his security detail, and they hustled him back to his car quicker than I thought - I guess he was planning on leaving.

A lot of the people who live there used the visit to complain about how long it took the U.N. to act in ordering a cease-fire. And there's also just generally a lot of anger here towards the international community. And I guess that's something that this demonstration was used for as well.

MONTAGNE: Well, you spoke of him going next to Israel. What is on the agenda for that visit?

TARABAY: He said that one of the biggest issues he's going to be raising with Israel is this air and sea blockade that Israel has imposed on Lebanon. He called for Israel to immediately lift the blockade yesterday during his press conference with Fouad Siniora. He will also be talking about the prisoners that Hezbollah wants Israel to release in exchange for the Israeli soldiers that Hezbollah is holding.

Kofi Annan also called for Hezbollah to release the Israeli soldiers and said that they should be transferred to the international Red Cross, and the U.N. would play a role if it was asked to. So he basically said that everyone needed to implement the cease-fire in its entirety, and it wasn't this smorgasbord that you could just kind of pick and choose what you wanted to implement and what you didn't like you could just ignore. He said it was a fixed menu. So he's going to be talking about all those issues with Israel as well when he travels there today.

MONTAGNE: Thank you very much. NPR's Jamie Tarabay speaking from Beirut.

Copyright © 2006 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.