Da Ha'aretz del 17/07/2006
Originale su http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/pages/ShArtVty.jhtml?itemNo=739021

Blair: Deployment of int'l force is only way to end Lebanon crisis

di Aluf Benn

British Prime Minister Tony Blair and United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan on Monday called for the deployment of an international force in southern Lebanon in order to end the conflict between Israel.

Speaking at the Group of Eight leaders summit in St. Petersburg Blair said such intervention by the international community could be the only way to end the crisis, Sky TV said.

"The blunt reality is that this violence is not going to stop unless we create the conditions for the cessation of violence," Blair said after talks with Annan on the margins of the Group of Eight summit.

"The only way is if we have a deployment of international forces that can stop bombardment coming into Israel," he said.

Annan called on the parties to narrow their attacks on military targets and leave civilians out of the line of fire.

He also said that the UN was considering evacuation plans for UN dependants from Lebanon, while Blair said Britain was looking at the possibility of creating an air bridge for its citizens.

Their comments came a day after world leaders forged a unified response at their G-8 summit to the crisis in the Middle East, blaming Hezbollah and Hamas for the escalating violence and recognizing Israel's right to defend itself - although they called on the Jewish state to show restraint.


ISRAEL WELCOMES G8 SUPPORT

Israel welcomed a statement on Sunday by the G8 on the upsurge in Middle East violence, saying it backed its call for Hezbollah to free two Israeli soldiers and halt its rocket fire.

"Israel concurs with the position of the international community, which places responsibility for the conflict on extremist elements," said Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. "Israel and the international community share a common problem - the presence of extremist terrorists."

"[Israel] sees, along with the international community, that the path to a solution through the release of the abducted soldiers, a cessation of rocket fire on Israel, and full implementation of [UN] resolution 1559."

World leaders meeting in Russia agreed Sunday to deliver a "strong message" on the crisis in the Middle East, adopting a joint statement with four conditions they said were needed to halt the escalating violence. They blamed "extremists" for an upsurge in violence and called on Israel to be restrained in responding to attack.

"It is a strong message with a clear political content," German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters after negotiations at the summit of the Group of Eight industrialized nations.

The leaders expressed their "deepening concern about the situation in the Middle East, in particular the rising civilian casualties on all sides and the damage to infrastructure," the statement read.

Meanwhile, Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi telephoned Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani on Sunday to urge Tehran to take an "active role" in diplomatic moves to end the crisis in the Middle East.

An Italian government source said the Iranian had not given an immediate response but would respond "in the coming days."


ENVOYS ARRIVING TO RESOLVE CRISIS

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice on Sunday said she was considering coming to the Middle East to help mediate the crisis.

European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana headed to Beirut in a British military helicopter on Sunday to meet with Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and other high-ranking Lebanese officials. UN envoy Terje Roed-Larson also arrived in Beirut Sunday, in an effort to help mediate the escalating crisis. Larsen met with Siniora Sunday night.

In their statement, the G-8 leaders called for the Israel Defense Forces soldiers abducted in Gaza and Lebanon to be released unharmed; the shelling of Israeli territory to end; IDF military operations to cease and forces to withdraw from Gaza; and for arrested Palestinian ministers and legislators to be released.

"We do not want to let terrorist forces and those who support them have the opportunity to create chaos in the Middle East," Merkel told reporters. "Therefore we place value on clearly identifying the cause and effect of events."

"We are convinced that the government of Lebanon must be given all support and that the relevant UN resolutions regarding the south of Lebanon must also be implemented," Merkel said.

"We also demand that in addition to the UN activities, another observation and security mission is established. That must be worked out through the UN," she said.

The UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1559 in September 2004, calling for disarming all militias and strict respect for Lebanon's sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity and political independence under Lebanese government authority.

The Lebanese Shiite Muslim guerrilla group Hezbollah, which controls the southern border, has refused to disarm as demanded by the resolution, saying it is a resistance movement.

The conflict has dominated this year's G-8 summit, which Russian President Vladimir Putin, the host, had hoped would focus on energy, education and fighting infectious diseases.

The statement came after the UN Security Council on Saturday again rejected pleas from Lebanon that it call for an immediate cease-fire between Israel and Lebanon after the United States objected.

In closed-door talks the U.S. argued that the focus for Middle East diplomacy for now should be in the G8 summit, council diplomats said.

The U.S. was the sole member of the 15-nation UN body to oppose any council action at all at this time, they said.

"We would expect much more from the Security Council," Lebanese Foreign Ministry official Nouhad Mahmoud told reporters after the council meeting, singling out the U.S. for blame.

U.S. President George W. Bush on Sunday repeated that Israel had the right to defend itself in the Middle East.

"Our message to Israel is defend yourself but be mindful of the consequences, so we are urging restraint," said Bush, who has refused to call on Israel to halt its offensive on Lebanon.

French President Jacques Chirac called for a "show of moderation" in Lebanon, and said that a lasting cease-fire is needed.

He went on to say that forces threatening Lebanon's security and sovereignty must be stopped.

Speaking before the G8 summit, Chirac said he and Bush were in complete agreement that UN resolutions had to be applied, and that "all forces which threaten and endanger the security, stability and sovereignty of Lebanon must be stopped."

Rice said on Sunday at the summit the United States is deeply concerned about mounting civilian casualties in Lebanon but that an immediate cease-fire would not solve the problem.

Rice told reporters she had told Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that "we are deeply concerned about the effect on innocent civilians and we would hope that Israel would be mindful of and restrained in its operations so that innocent civilians do not suffer".

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