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Briefs (left)

Israel Says Blockade of
Lebanon Will Continue

By Warren Hoge

Israel’s prime minister, Ehud Olmert, rebuffed a request on Wednesday from U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan for even a partial lifting of the seven-week-old blockade of Lebanon.

Annan told Olmert in a breakfast meeting at the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem that while he would prefer that Israel completely lift its blockade of air, sea and land traffic into Lebanon, he wanted Olmert at least to allow Beirut’s airport to resume normal operations.

But Olmert rejected that idea. In doing so, he referred to Annan’s previous insistence that all parties to the U.N.-brokered cease-fire on Aug. 14 abide by all of its provisions.

Speaking at a joint news conference, Olmert recycled for his own purposes the same metaphor Annan had used moments before to say the cease-fire resolution was not a smorgasbord.

“As far as we are concerned,” Olmert said, “we entirely accept that it is a fixed menu and that everything will be implemented, including the lifting of the blockade, as part of the entire implementation.”

Therefore, he said, Israel cannot lift the blockade, imposed to prevent the smuggling of arms to Hezbollah, on one part of Lebanon and not on others.

Monitors Fault Sri Lanka Over Killing Aid Workers

By Shimali Senanayake and Somini Sengupta

In a searing indictment of the Sri Lankan government, Swedish-led cease-fire monitors on Wednesday accused government security forces of killing 17 aid workers early this month in Mutur in one of the worst attacks against humanitarian workers worldwide in recent years.

The statement, issued by the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission, cited three reasons for its conclusion. First, it noted, security forces had been in Mutur at the time of the killings. Second, the government had barred the monitors from the scene immediately after the bodies had been discovered. Third, confidential conversations with “highly reliable sources” had pointed to the culpability of the security forces.

No other group, the Monitoring Mission concluded, would have been in a position to carry out the killings, which it called a “gross violation” of the tattered cease-fire.

Pressures Increase on
Pakistan’s Government

By Carlotta Gall and Salman Masood

The government of Pakistan came under mounting political pressure on Tuesday as rioting continued for the third day in Baluchistan after the killing of a prominent rebel tribal leader, and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz faced a no-confidence vote lodged by an alliance of opposition parties.

Four people died in the protests — three in a bomb explosion and one policeman in clashes with protesters, news agencies reported.

The opposition failed in its no-confidence vote against Aziz, a former executive with Citibank, garnering only 136 votes of the 172 needed to pass the measure in the 342-member Parliament. But the vote was seen as an opening maneuver by the opposition alliance in a contentious atmosphere ahead of elections in 2007.

Angry speakers condemned the use of military force that led to the death of the 79-year-old political leader and former legislator, Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, in a mountain cave in his native Baluchistan, in the south, and criticized the president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who is also the head of the army.