United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan arrived in Beirut Monday to
start a tour that aims to strengthen the cease-fire in Lebanon saying
that it was "a very critical time" for the country, the Lebanese online
daily Naharnet reported.
"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 Rafik Hariri International airport by Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh.
Before touching down, Annan asked to fly over Beirut's southern suburbs that were heavily bombed by Israel during the month-long war, according to a military official at the airport.
During his two-day stay, the U.N. chief will meet with Lebanese leaders and visit with UNIFIL peacekeepers, who are already deployed in southern Lebanon.
He was expected to press politicians in Lebanon to heed calls to better police the border with Syria to prevent suspected arms smuggling to Hizbullah from Iran.
He was also likely to stress that Lebanon, rather than the U.N., must ensure the group abides by the Security Council truce that came into force on August 14, and refrains from any operations in the border area.
The U.N. Security Council resolution that ended 34 days of fighting between Hizbullah and Israeli forces 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.
Annan's visit comes as Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said his fighters would not oppose U.N. forces deployed in the south, but warned that the peacekeepers should not seek to take away their weapons.
"We have no problem with UNIFIL as long as its mission is not aimed at disarming Hezbollah," Nasrallah said in an interview aired Sunday on New TV.