UN Chief to Meet Friday With Syrian President

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan is due to meet Friday with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in hopes of shoring up an Israel-Hezbollah ceasefire.

Mr. Annan is expected to push Mr. Assad to end Syria's support for Hezbollah. Syria is suspected of funneling arms to the terrorist group.

On Thursday, the U.N. chief met with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Mualem in Damascus.

During the talks, Syria expressed support for the ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah and called for Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon.b

The official Syrian news agency said Mualem also told Mr. Annan the U.N. should work for a comprehensive Middle East peace. Syria wants a peace deal that would restore the Israeli occupied Golan Heights to Syria.

Mr. Annan is visiting Syria as part of a Middle East tour. He is also expected to travel to Iran, another major supporter of Hezbollah.

Israel has said it will not withdraw from Lebanon until the U.N. ceasefire is fully implemented and international troops are able to prevent the rearming of Hezbollah.

Israel also insists on the release of two Israeli soldiers captured by Hezbollah on July 12.

Mr. Annan says Israel should withdraw from Lebanon once five thousand international troops are deployed in southern Lebanon. Up to one thousand Italian soldiers are due Saturday in Lebanon. France says its troops will leave for Lebanon in a few days.

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