Rice back shuttling in Lebanon - Israel conflict
Lebanon-Israel-USA, Politics, 7/29/2006
US President George W. Bush says urgent efforts to resolve the crisis in the Middle East are continuing, both through Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's weekend return trip to the region and an impending United Nations Security Council meeting that could authorize a multinational peacekeeping force.
In his weekly radio address July 29, the president stressed once again that an end to the current violence in Israel and Lebanon must be achieved through "a sustainable cease-fire," and be pursued in the broader context of achieving democratic change and lasting peace in the region.
Bush once again placed the blame for the current crisis squarely on Hizballah and its "unprovoked terrorist attacks on Israel." He also stressed the role of Iran and Syria and renewed demands that those two nations stop enabling the group's terrorist acts.
"Iran must end its financial support and supply of weapons to terrorist groups such as Hizballah -- and Syria must end its support for terrorism and respect Lebanon's sovereignty," Bush declared.
Citing his White House meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair the previous day, Bush said the two had agreed that "Lebanon's democratic government must be empowered to exercise full authority over its territory" and that "militias in Lebanon must be disarmed, the flow of illegal arms must be halted, and the Lebanese security services should deploy throughout the country."
"We also agreed that a robust multinational force must be dispatched to Lebanon quickly," the president said. That would help speed delivery of humanitarian relief to the Lebanese people and facilitate the return of displaced persons to their homes, he added.
Bush stressed his view that the fighting in Lebanon is just the latest manifestation of a broader struggle between freedom and terror throughout the Middle East -- one that he said past American policy has failed to address successfully.
"For decades, American policy sought to achieve peace in the Middle East by promoting stability in the Middle East, yet these policies gave us neither," he said.
While describing the current conflict as "painful and tragic," the president said that, if dealt with effectively, it also represents "a moment of opportunity for broader change in the region."
He pledged continued US efforts to help Iraqi leaders establish democracy, and to work toward achieving the vision of "two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side-by-side in peace and security."
"When the Middle East grows in liberty and democracy, it will also grow in peace, and that will make America and all free nations more secure," Bush said.
Meantime, Rice says the Lebanese cease-fire plan announced on the evening of July 28 after a six-hour meeting of the Lebanese cabinet is "most certainly a positive step." Speaking with journalists en route to Jerusalem, Rice said she has not seen the full statement, but from press reports "it looks like there are some very good elements."
The Lebanese plan calls for immediate cease-fire and an exchange of prisoners. According to reports, Hizbullah, which is a member of the Lebanese governing coalition, did not specifically agree do disarm and objects to the presence of "a robust force" of international peacekeepers, but the proposal calls for the implementation of the Taif accords, which ended the Lebanese civil war in 1990 and include disarming of all militias.
Speaking about her second trip to the Middle East since the outbreak of the recent hostilities, Rice said she expects "fairly intense" negotiations with the Israelis and the Lebanese, and that a settlement would involve "a fair amount of give and take" on both sides.
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