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United States to Israel: you have one more week to blast Hizbullah
by UK Guardian (reposted)
Wednesday Jul 19th, 2006 6:26 AM
Bush 'gave green light' for limited attack, say Israeli and UK sources
The US is giving Israel a window of a week to inflict maximum damage on Hizbullah before weighing in behind international calls for a ceasefire in Lebanon, according to British, European and Israeli sources.

The Bush administration, backed by Britain, has blocked efforts for an immediate halt to the fighting initiated at the UN security council, the G8 summit in St Petersburg and the European foreign ministers' meeting in Brussels.

"It's clear the Americans have given the Israelis the green light. They [the Israeli attacks] will be allowed to go on longer, perhaps for another week," a senior European official said yesterday. Diplomatic sources said there was a clear time limit, partly dictated by fears that a prolonged conflict could spin out of control.

US strategy in allowing Israel this freedom for a limited period has several objectives, one of which is delivering a slap to Iran and Syria, who Washington claims are directing Hizbullah and Hamas militants from behind the scenes.

George Bush last night said that he suspected Syria was trying to reassert its influence in Lebanon. Speaking in Washington, he said: "It's in our interest for Syria to stay out of Lebanon and for this government in Lebanon to succeed and survive. The root cause of the problem is Hizbullah and that problem needs to be addressed."

Tony Blair yesterday swung behind the US position that Israel need not end the bombing until Hizbullah hands over captured prisoners and ends its rocket attacks. During a Commons statement, he resisted backbench demands that he call for a ceasefire.

Echoing the US position, he told MPs: "Of course we all want violence to stop and stop immediately, but we recognise the only realistic way to achieve such a ceasefire is to address the underlying reasons why this violence has broken out."

by more
Wednesday Jul 19th, 2006 6:37 AM
WASHINGTON, July 19, 2006 (AFP) - The United States and Israel have initially agreed to wait one week, while the pounding of Hezbollah targets continues, before seeking a buffer zone and an international force in southern Lebanon, The New York Times said Wednesday.

However Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora criticized the poor international response to Israel's bombings in an interview with the daily, and accused Israel of trying to destroy his country and its people.

US and American officials told the daily that the Israeli-US consensus called for another week of pounding Hezbollah targets to downgrade the militant's group's military capabilities.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice would then travel to the region, the officials added, to try to establish a buffer zone in southern Lebanon and possibly also an international force to monitor the country's borders and Hezbollah's actions.

A 19-kilometer (12-mile) buffer zone was being considered to keep Hezbollah at arms' reach from Israel, the officials said.

Israel, they added, had dropped its demand that Hezbollah disarm completely before a ceasefire begins.

Washington and its Arab allies, US officials said, were discussing how to strengthen Lebanon's borders, while Israel has signaled it would welcome an international force as long as it included troops from major powers and prevented Hezbollah from supplementing its arsenal.

A senior US official, who like the other sources asked not to be identified, said not everybody was happy with the US position, saying "we're very careful how we talk about it." He also said the United States was telling Israel there was a limit to the time it would be allowed to continue its present course of action.

by Daily Star (reposted)
Wednesday Jul 19th, 2006 6:38 AM
The US secretary of state said Tuesday any cease-fire in Lebanon ought to be based on fundamental changes, publicly disagreeing with her Egyptian counterpart, who called for an immediate halt to fighting.

As part of international efforts to end the violence, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan called for a bigger, better-armed and more robust international force to stabilize Southern Lebanon and buy time for the government to disarm Hizbullah guerrillas.

Rice, at a joint news conference in Washington with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Abu al-Gheit, said she was primed to visit the region when it will be "helpful and necessary."

Asked about calls for an immediate cease-fire in the region, Abu al-Gheit said: "A cease-fire is imperative, and we have to keep working to reach that objective. It is impera-tive. We have to bring it to an end as soon as possible ... We should do it now."

Rice immediately stated the US position, that a cease-fire was only advisable once the root cause of the fighting - including, in the US view, Hizbullah's attacks - was addressed.

"We all agree it should happen as soon as possible, when conditions are conducive to do so," Rice said.

That, she said, would involve implementation of a standing UN Security Council resolution and the deployment of the Lebanese Army to the borders, as well as the introduction of a strong peacekeeping operation.

"We all want a cessation of violence. We all want the protection of civilians. We have to make certain that anything that we do is going to be of lasting value," Rice said.

The US renewed calls for Syria and Iran to use their influence to force Hizbullah to halt the conflict, said White House spokesman Tony Snow.

by UK Independent (reposted)
Thursday Jul 20th, 2006 6:44 PM
Israeli warplanes continued their bombardment of Lebanon yesterday, defying a demand by Kofi Annan for an immediate end to fighting on the ninth day of a war that has led to the "collective punishment of the Lebanese people" .

Two countries, the US and Britain, defiantly refused to back the international clamour for an immediate ceasfire between Israel and Hizbollah guerrillas. Their ambivalence about civilian deaths in Lebanon has given Israel a powerful signal that it can continue its attacks with impunity.

However, Israel's ground offensive against Hizbollah was blunted when four of its soldiers were reported killed in clashes in south Lebanon. Across the country clouds of smoke appeared as the aerial bombardment continued and the evacuation of foreign nationals, including Americans, was stepped up. Israel said it would allow humanitarian aid to flow into Lebanon as international outrage grew over civilian casualties which are now above 300.

Mr Annan, the secretary general of the United Nations, used his emotive statement to the Security Council to reflect the deep-seated international unease about the human cost of Israel's response to the onslaught of rockets from Hizbollah guerrillas backed by Syria and Iran. "What is most urgently needed is an immediate cessation of hostilities," he said. However, he added that there were "serious obstacles to reaching a ceasefire, or even to diminishing the violence quickly."

An official close to the secretary general said he had taken soundings with "everyone" before making the statement. Mr Annan was also due to brief the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, last night on the findings of a UN mission which concluded there should be a temporary cessation of hostilities.

The statement was sharply criticised by Israel and the United States. In London, the Foreign Secretary, Margaret Beckett, told the Cabinet that those calling for a halt to hostilities, including the French government, were in effect demanding a one-sided ceasefire "with rockets still going into Israel".