Dubai: Lebanon's Prime Minister on Wednesday rejected any prospect of lasting peace with Israel despite overtures from the Israeli premier and UN chief Kofi Annan who was on a diplomatic tour of the region.
"Lebanon will be the last Arab country that could sign a peace agreement with Israel," Fouad Siniora told a news conference in Beirut.
"There will be no agreement with Israel before there is a global peace deal that is just and lasting."
Siniora said there had been no "direct or indirect" contacts with Israel on a peace agreement following the month-long conflict between the Jewish state and Hezbollah which ended with a truce on August 14.
Siniora's comments came as Lebanese finance minister Jihad Azour told Gulf News that Israel's continuing sea and air blockade of Lebanon is an economic war and it is costing Lebannon $45 million (Dh165.5 million) every day.
The Israeli military siege is a violation of the UN ceasefire resolution, the minister said in a phone interview.
"Normal trade is suffering. Other economic activities are affected. There is no tourism at the moment," Azour said.
"We expect the international community to force Israel to end its blockade," he said.
However, Israel flatly rejected a call by Annan to lift the air and sea blockade, saying it would only end the 7-week-old siege once all aspects of the UN-brokered ceasefire were in place. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert also told Annan he would not withdraw Israeli troops fully from southern Lebanon until the full implementation of the ceasefire.
Olmert's statements effectively amounted to a rejection of the two main requests Annan had come to Occupied Jerusalem to discuss.
In Lebanon, Energy and Water Minister Mohammad Fneish, one of two Hezbollah ministers in the government, said the group would free the two Israeli soldiers it seized only as part of a prisoner exchange.
"The goal of this operation [on July 12] was to conduct indirect negotiations and a swap. This was the position before the [Israeli] aggression and it's only natural to reinforce it after the aggression," he told a news conference.