Annan heads to Rome conference in search of concrete measures on Lebanon

“What is important is that we leave Rome with a concrete strategy as to how we are going to deal with this,” Annan told reporters. (UN Photo)

With violence continuing to tear through Lebanon for a twelfth day, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan leaves for Rome today for an international meeting aimed at resolving the crisis, expressing hope that concrete measures will emerge from discussions there.

“What is important is that we leave Rome with a concrete strategy as to how we are going to deal with this and we do not walk away empty-handed and once again dash the hopes of those who are caught in this conflict,” Mr. Annan told reporters at UN Headquarters in New York before his departure for the meetings that are expected to start tomorrow.

The cessation of hostilities, which have already claimed the lives of over 400 people, along with ideas about an international force and the release of the abducted Israeli soldiers will be matters at the top of the discussion in Rome, he said.

In response to questions about the set of measures he would like to see, Mr. Annan referred reporters to his Council presentation last Thursday of both urgent steps to halt the toll on civilians and the creation of a political framework for a lasting settlement of the conflict, but noted that many other ideas would be presented in Rome.

He stressed that it was most important to arrive at a set of measures that can be implemented simultaneously, rather than sequentially, and, in the long-term, to support the Lebanese Government in its efforts to strengthen its armed forces and to “take full charge” of its territory.

Meanwhile, as some diplomats and officials headed to Rome, the Security Council would also continue to work actively on the Lebanon crisis, the body’s July President, Ambassador Jean-Marc de la Sablière of France, told reporters.

“We are working here, working in capitals, and I hope very much that there will be an outcome from this meeting, but that does not mean we are not working here,” Mr. de la Sablière said, mentioning, in particular, ongoing discussions about the shape of an enhanced multinational force in south Lebanon.

Since that force would support a specific political agreement, he said, however, that predicting what the force would look like at this time would be “putting the cart before the horse.”

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