Lebanon Wants U.S. Pressure to End Israeli Fishing Blockade
BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) _ Lebanon appealed to the United States and other U.N. Security Council members Friday to pressure Israel to lift a blockade of three southern ports that has kept 1,300 fishermen out of work.
Israeli gunboats fired shots to keep boats from leaving the ports of Sidon, Tyre and Zahrani, police reported. The blockade on Sidon was later eased, although it wasn’t clear whether that was a result of diplomatic pressure.
Israel hasn’t publicly given a reason for the blockade, begun 16 days ago in Tyre and expanded Thursday to the two other cities. It has no military impact and is believed to be intended to pressure Lebanon to disarm Iranian-backed Hezbollah guerrillas, who are fighting to drive Israeli troops out of occupied territory in southern Lebanon.
U.S. Charge d’Affaires Ronald Schleicher received the Lebanese appeal at a 30-minute meeting with Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Zafer Hassan in Beirut.
``All sides are required to exercise restraint and seek ways to ease tensions in south Lebanon,″ Schleicher said after the meeting.
Hassan later held separate meetings with ambassadors from the other nations with permanent Security Council seats _ Russia, Britain, France and China.
The Russian envoy, Gennady Ilyichev, said Lebanon wasn’t asking for a Security Council meeting, but wants permanent members to persuade Israel to end the blockade.
Gunboat crews told fishermen through loudspeakers that they were allowed to operate in waters north of Sidon. A few dozen sailed out and returned with half-full nets. But none ventured out of Tyre or Zahrani.
In Beirut, hundreds of Shiite Muslim militants trampled the U.S. flag and chanted ``Death to America, the Great Satan!″ in a parade staged by Hezbollah.
Hezbollah’s leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, warned in a speech that his guerrillas would shell northern Israeli towns if Lebanese communities were bombarded from Israeli-occupied territory in the south.
As he spoke, two Israeli jets flying overhead caused sonic booms that reverberated across Beirut.