(UN News Centre) Welcoming tonights Security Council resolution that calls for an immediate cessation of hostilities in the Middle East, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he believed it could serve as a base to reach a sustainable and lasting ceasefire agreement in the coming days and ultimately to the start of a process to solve the underlying political problems in the region through political means.
In his address to the Council ahead of the vote on the resolution, Mr. Annan said he would work with the Lebanese and Israeli Governments over the weekend to determine the exact date and time at which the cessation of hostilities will come into effect.
But the Secretary-General also told the 15-member body how profoundly disappointed he was that the Council took so long to agree to such a resolution, reports Trend.
All members of this Council must be aware that its inability to act sooner has badly shaken the worlds faith in its authority and integrity, he said.
In a unanimous vote, conducted after weeks of intensive diplomacy with Mr. Annan pushing for action, the 15-member Council called for Hizbollah to stop all attacks immediately and for Israel to cease all offensive military operations.
The resolution welcomed the Lebanese Governments plan to deploy 15,000 of its own troops in the countrys south as Israel withdraws its forces behind the Blue Line at the earliest, while at the same time the size and mandate of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) is significantly expanded.
During his speech, Mr. Annan said that too many children have died in the conflict, and Lebanons economy and infrastructure have been devastated at a time when its population was making real progress towards political reform and economic recovery.
The countrys attempts to cast off the chains of external interference and domestic strife will require not only constructive cooperation among Lebanons different groups, but mutual goodwill and sustained dialogue with key figures in the region, including the Syrian and Iranian Governments.
Voicing pride and admiration for the courage of UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) peacekeepers, as well as UN humanitarian workers, he observed that UNIFIL faces a task under the resolution perhaps even more difficult and dangerous than its previous one.
It must be robust and effective, and ensure that no vacuum is left between the Israeli withdrawal and the deployment of Lebanese forces, he said, adding it must be provided with sophisticated military capabilities and additional troops as soon as possible.
Mr. Annan also called for: humanitarian convoys and relief workers to be given a real guarantee of safe passage and access to those who need help; a resolution of the Shebaa Farms border dispute in accordance with resolution 1680; the release of prisoners in the region, starting with those who have been taken hostage; potential donors to respond swiftly to requests from Lebanon for financial help; and the Security Council and the wider international community to tackle the crises in the Middle East not in isolation or bilaterally, but as part of a holistic and comprehensive effort.
He also warned Council members not to turn their backs on the bloodshed, suffering and hardship suffered by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, or the danger to Israelis from rockets launched from inside Gaza.
The Lebanese Government said more than 1,000 of its civilians have been killed and another 3,600 others have been injured, while about a quarter of the population or a million people have been displaced from their homes. Some 41 Israeli civilians have also died, while many others have had to flee their homes or seek shelter from rocket attacks.