2 August 2006

Activities of Secretary-General in Italy, 25-27 July 2006

NEW YORK, 1 August (UN Headquarters) -- United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan arrived in Rome, Italy, in the morning of 25 July to attend the International Conference on Lebanon.

In the afternoon, the Secretary-General was briefed on the latest developments in the region by a number of his senior advisors who had travelled to Rome.  These included the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Marie Guéhenno; Special Envoy for the implementation of Security Council resolution 1559 (2004), Terje Roed-Larsen; Deputy Military Adviser, Major General Per Five; and the Director of the Asia and the Pacific Division in the Department of Political Affairs, Michael Williams.  Afterwards, he met with the former Foreign Minister of Greece, George Papandreou, to discuss the situation in the region.  Later in the evening, the Secretary-General met with the United States Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, and they were later joined by the European Union High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana, and Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.

In a statement issued from Rome that evening on the Israeli attack on the United Nations observer post in Lebanon, the Secretary-General conveyed his shock and deep distress at the "apparently deliberate targeting by Israeli Defense Forces" and called on the Government of Israel "to conduct a full investigation into this very disturbing incident". (See Press Release SG/SM/10577)

The following morning, just prior to the start of the International Conference on Lebanon, the Secretary-General held a bilateral meeting with the French Foreign Minister, Philippe Douste-Blazy.

The Secretary-General then told the participants at the Conference that a cessation of hostilities was needed because of the grave humanitarian crisis.  He called on Hizbollah to stop its deliberate targeting of Israeli population centres, and called on Israel to end its bombardments, blockades and ground operations in Lebanon.  (See Press Release SG/SM/10578.)

The Secretary-General added that a key stipulation for such a halt in fighting would be that the parties must not take advantage of such a pause to conduct offensive operations, redeploy or resupply.  An international force had a vital role to play in this scenario.

He also emphasized the need for a political framework, so that a cessation of hostilities could be transformed into a longer-term process of enduring peace, and for nations to commit to a strong economic package for Lebanon.

Following the conclusion of the meeting, the Secretary-General, Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema, United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Prime Minister Fouad Siniora of Lebanon spoke to the press.

He noted that the participants at the Conference endorsed the need for urgent action to stop the hostilities, in order to move into the longer-term mould and be able to deploy troops.

The Secretary-General said he intended to follow-up on the question of an international force in Lebanon.  He said he would request the Department for Peacekeeping Operations to convene a meeting of potential troop contributors in New York the following week, while awaiting the Security Council's decision on this matter.

In response to a question about the shelling of the United Nations position, the Secretary-General said that he had had a chance to talk to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.  The Prime Minister believed it had been a mistake and proposed an investigation into the matter, which the Secretary-General suggested could be done as a joint effort.

The Secretary-General also participated in an official lunch hosted by the Italian Foreign Minister for all the participants of the Conference.

Later that evening, he met with Sa'ad Hariri, the son of the slain former Prime Minister of Lebanon, Rafik Hariri.

The Secretary-General left Rome in the morning of Thursday 27 July to return to New York.

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