U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan begins Middle East tour

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The Independent Online

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan arrived in Beirut Monday at the start of a Mideast tour to strengthen the cease-fire in Lebanon, saying it was "a very critical time" for the country.

"I think it's important that I come here myself to discuss with the Lebanese authorities the aftermath of the war and the measures we need to take to implement U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701 and to underscore international solidarity," Annan told reporters after being met at the airport by Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh.

During his two-day stay, Annan will meet with Lebanese leaders and visit with U.N. peacekeepers, who are already deployed in southern Lebanon.

He also was expected to visit Israel, Syria and Iran.

The U.N. Security Council resolution that ended 34 days of fighting between Hezbollah and Israeli forces on Aug. 14 calls for deployment of 15,000 peacekeepers in southern Lebanon and an equal number of Lebanese troops to patrol the border region when Israel withdraws.

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