World Community Must Stop Lebanon Fighting, Bush, Blair Say
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jul. 28, 2006
The international community must intervene to end the fighting between Israeli soldiers and Hezbollah guerillas, President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair told reporters today during a joint White House press briefing.
“Our goal is to achieve a lasting peace,” Bush said with Blair at his side, “which requires that a free, democratic and independent Lebanese government be empowered to exercise full authority over its territory.” Earlier, Bush and Blair had discussed the Lebanon and Iraq situations and other issues during an Oval Office strategy session.
Members of Hezbollah, a terror group based in Lebanon, crossed into Israel on July 12 and kidnapped two Israeli soldiers, touching off the current violence. Since then, Hezbollah-fired rockets have rained on northern Israeli cities and towns while Israeli troops entered southern Lebanon to root out terrorist rocket sites. The U.S. military has evacuated more than 12,000 Americans out of Lebanon.
U.N. Security Council Resolutions 1559 and 1680 call on Hezbollah and other foreign-backed militia groups to depart Lebanon. Yet, Hezbollah hasn’t complied while the Lebanese army remains essentially impotent.
Hezbollah became Lebanon’s de-facto military force since the end of the nation’s 1975-1990 civil war and the Syrian military’s withdrawal from Lebanon last year. Syria and Iran are said to be financers and backers of Hezbollah’s radical-Muslim agenda.
However, Bush said he and Blair have a plan to end the violence.
“We want a Lebanon free of militias and foreign interference, and a Lebanon that governs its own destiny, as is called for by U.N. Security Council Resolutions 1559 and 1680,” Bush said. Additionally, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will return to the Middle East soon, he said, to continue peace efforts on the diplomatic front.
And, a multinational stabilization force should be deployed to the region as soon as possible, Bush said, to augment the Lebanese army in the southern part of the country.
“An effective multinational force will help speed delivery of humanitarian relief, facilitate the return of displaced persons and support the Lebanese government as it asserts full sovereignty over its territory and guards its borders,” Bush explained.
The two leaders also want a new U.N. resolution that calls for a ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah, Blair said, while making sure that southern Lebanon isn’t used as a base for armed militia attacks on Israel.
Middle East peace can be achieved, Bush said, noting his and Blair’s plan will end Hezbollah’s attacks on Israel, return Israeli soldiers seized by the terrorists, and cause the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Lebanon.
Hezbollah has repeatedly thumbed its nose at the United Nations, Blair said, noting the terror group has been fortifying and arming militia in southern Lebanon for the past two years.
“So, we know how this situation came about and how it started and the question is now how to get it stopped and get it stopped with the urgency the situation demands,” Blair said.