Bush aims for rapid Lebanon force


Richard Moore

Original source URL:

Bush aims for rapid Lebanon force

An international force must be quickly despatched to Lebanon, US President 
George W Bush has said.

After talks in Washington with UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, Mr Bush said the 
two countries' goal was to achieve a "lasting peace" in the region.

But neither called for an immediate ceasefire. The US secretary of state is 
returning to the region on Saturday.

Earlier, Hezbollah said it had fired a new long-range rocket, called the 
Khaibar-1, into northern Israel.

Meanwhile, the UN has called for a 72-hour truce in the conflict zone in 
southern Lebanon to allow humanitarian aid in and to get casualties out.

Mr Bush said he and Mr Blair had agreed an international force would augment the
Lebanese army, and assist with the distribution of humanitarian aid.

He told reporters their top priorities in dealing with the crisis were to:

  €  Help provide immediate humanitarian relief
  €  Achieve an end to the violence
  €  Return those displaced by the crisis
  €  Help with reconstruction

Mr Bush said Condoleezza Rice would hold talks with the leaders of Israel and 
Lebanon to agree a proposal to achieve lasting peace.

The UN Security Council would meet next week to discuss the issue, he added.

This is a moment of intense conflict in the Middle East... Yet our aim is to 
turn it into a moment of opportunity and a chance for broader change in the 

George W Bush

"Our goal is a Chapter Seven resolution setting out a clear framework for 
cessation of hostilities on an urgent basis and mandating the multinational 
force," he said.

"Prime Minister Blair and I believe that this approach gives the best hope to 
end the violence and create lasting peace and stability in Lebanon."

The leaders' meeting comes amid growing pressure on the US and UK to join calls 
for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah.

But the BBC's James Coomerasamy in Washington said that their fundamental 
position did not appear to have changed - rather than demanding an immediate 
ceasefire, Mr Bush and Mr Blair called for a framework to enable the cessation 
of hostilities.

"This is a moment of intense conflict in the Middle East," Mr Bush said. "Yet 
our aim is to turn it into a moment of opportunity and a chance for broader 
change in the region."

Mr Blair said he and Mr Bush agreed that a UN resolution was needed as quickly 
as possible to stop the fighting in Lebanon.

But he warned: "Nothing will work unless as well as an end to the immediate 
crisis, we put in place the measures necessary to prevent it occurring again."

As the two leaders held talks, the violence continued on the ground.

Hezbollah said its new rocket had landed south of the city of Haifa, the deepest
strike inside Israel so far.

Israeli police have confirmed that a previously unknown rocket carrying up to 
100kg of explosives had struck an area near the town of Afula.

The attack came as the Israeli army said it would deploy patriot anti-missile 
batteries near Tel Aviv, Israel's largest city, in case Hezbollah started using 
longer-range missiles.

The strike formed part of a barrage of more 100 rockets fired into northern 
Israel, injuring at least seven people.

Israel has carried out dozens of fresh strikes on Lebanon. Lebanese officials 
said at least 12 people had been killed.

Israel said late on Friday that 26 Hezbollah fighters had been killed in 
fighting around the town of Bint Jbeil.

Convoy hit

Earlier on Friday, two mortar rounds hit a convoy of vehicles carrying civilians
escaping the violence in southern Lebanon. Two people travelling in a German TV 
car were wounded.

The convoy, organised by the Australian embassy, was returning to the port city 
of Tyre from the border village of Rmeish, where hundreds of people have been 
trapped by the Israeli offensive.

Our correspondent says the cars were clearly marked as a press and civilian 
convoy, and that individual journalists had been in contact with the Israelis 
who knew about the journey.

The Israeli Defence Forces said they did not believe the mortars were theirs but
were still checking.

Air strikes

Some 425 Lebanese, the vast majority civilians, are confirmed killed in the 17 
days of the conflict - but a Lebanese minister has suggested scores more bodies 
lie under the rubble.

Surely the lives of the innocent should take precedent
Nikki, Warwickshire

Fifty-one Israelis, including at least 18 civilians, have been killed, mostly by
Hezbollah rockets.

The Israeli assault began after Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers and 
killed eight in a cross-border raid on 12 July.

Israeli Defence Minister Amir Peretz stressed on Friday Israel had no plans to 
start operations against Syria.

In other developments:

€  A Jordanian man was killed and at least three other people wounded in one of 
several strikes in Kfar Joz, close to the south Lebanese market town of 

€  There were multiple strikes on the Bekaa Valley to the east, on villages 
around Tyre, and roads in the south-east

€  Israeli soldiers killed at least 15 Hezbollah fighters in Bint Jbeil, the 
Israeli army said. Israel suffered its worst single losses in the southern town 
on Wednesday

€  Unarmed UN observers have been temporarily relocated from border positions in
southern Lebanon after the deaths of four UN observers in an Israeli strike on 

€  Israeli military chief Dan Halutz was taken to hospital after feeling unwell 
but later returned home, Israeli Channel 10 TV reported.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2006/07/28 21:48:27 GMT


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