Saturday, July 22, 2006

Annan: Mideast Solution Must Involve Syria, Iran

Dow Jones Newswires:
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Friday that any lasting solution to the Middle East crisis would need to include the involvement of Syria and Iran. "Whether we like it or not, we have to engage those two governments if we are going to find a longer-term solution," Annan said in an interview on CNN's " Larry King Live."

His remarks came as Israel continued to mass troops and tanks on its border with Lebanon in apparent preparations for a ground invasion. The latest crisis was sparked by Hezbollah's abduction of two Israeli soldiers in a July 12 cross- border raid.

"Syria and Iran are two friendly countries. There's also indications that both Syria and Iran have influence with Hezbollah and have supported Hezbollah, and therefore, the two countries have to be part of the solution. They will have to work with the international community and cooperate with the international community for us to help to find a long-term solution," Annan said. READ MORE

Annan also warned that any ground invasion by Israel of Lebanon would be a " very serious escalation."

If Israel were to enter southern Lebanon, there would be questions over whether it intended to stay, root out Hezbollah and then withdraw, or establish a security cordon in the region. Establishing a security zone, Annan said, would be regarded by the Lebanese as occupation - "and that will intensify the resistance."

Annan warned as well of "a major humanitarian disaster," with 700,000 people displaced, including 500,000 internally within Lebanon and and 150,000 across the border in Syria. The U.N. is finding it difficult to assess how many people need help and how to get aid to the them because many roads and bridges are bombed out.

"So even the 500,000 could be a gross underestimation," Annan said.