Bush to Iran, Syria: Stop terror support

Emphasizes need for "sustainable" peace, outlines "clear objectives."

By NATHAN GUTTMAN
July 31, 2006 18:27
3 minute read.
George W Bush thinking 88

George W Bush thinking88. (photo credit: )

 
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The frustration over the failure of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to broker a cease-fire agreement due to the Kafr Kana bombing did not lead to a change of course in the US's approach to the Lebanon crisis, according to diplomatic officials here. The US administration is renewing its diplomatic efforts and sticking to its goal of achieving a "sustainable cease-fire" in the region, fending off calls for an immediate stop to the fighting. President George W. Bush, who was scheduled to meet with Rice Monday evening, outlined the principles of the agreement the US is wishing to push forward, principles that have not changed even after Sunday's Israeli attack in Kana. According to Bush, speaking during a visit to Florida, any resolution to the conflict should ensure that the democratic government of Lebanon "be empowered to exercise sole authority over its territory." Other terms specified by Bush were deploying an international force on the ground to enable humanitarian support and ending the involvement of Iran and Syria in Lebanon. "Iran must end its financial support and supply of weapons to terrorist groups like Hizbullah. Syria must end its support for terror and respect the sovereignty of Lebanon," Bush said. After 20 days of fighting in Lebanon, the US diplomacy is moving into full gear, with Bush personally taking the lead on the issue. According to administration officials, Bush spoke with Rice three times on the phone over the weekend while she was in Israel and will closely follow her attempts to present a UN Security Council resolution by the end of this week. Bush is presenting the Lebanon conflict as part of a greater regional issue, involving Syria, Iran and the American push for democracy in the Middle East. "For decades, the status quo in the Middle East permitted tyranny and terror to thrive. And as we saw on September the 11th, the status quo in the Middle East led to death and destruction in the United States, and it had to change," Bush said in this speech in Florida. While Bush appeared to be undeterred by Sunday's events in Lebanon, sources in touch with administration officials said they sensed a visible mood of frustration following the Kana attack and the collapse of Rice's shuttle diplomacy. The US acted quickly to try and save the diplomatic mission by forcing Israel to agree to a 48-hour suspension of air raids and announcing the deal even before Israel had a chance to do so. Rice herself, speaking to reporters on her plane on her way back to Washington, dismissed accounts about a major setback in the US diplomatic push. "Well, look, it was in the midst of military operations. And the tragic incident happened in the midst of military operations. And, yes, it made things more difficult. But it was not that anyone intended to make things more difficult," she said. On the practical level, in the next day the US will be pushing its proposal for a UN resolution to end the war in Lebanon. The resolution calls for a permanent cease-fire, the deployment of Lebanese army in the South, an embargo on arms supplies to Hizbullah and a multinational force on the buffer zone between the Israeli border and the Litani River. While the administration is trying to stay on course and stick to its initial approach of not stopping the war before a solution to the Hizbullah problem is reached, criticism in Washington is mounting. In a letter to the president, members of Congress from both parties called for an immediate cease-fire and for a broader US role in mediating the Middle East conflict. "We believe this to be strategically na ve," the members of Congress say on Bush's refusal to support an immediate cease-fire. The letter is signed by David Price (D-NC), Lois Capps (D-CA), James Leach (R-IA) and Bob Filner (D-CA). Senator Chuck Hagel, a Nebraska Republican from the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, called on Bush Monday to push for an immediate cease-fire in Lebanon. Speaking on the Senate floor, Hagel said that the US needed to intervene immediately to stop the bloodshed in the Middle East and expressed concern over the fact that the US was isolating itself and becoming less effective in dealing with the Iranian challenge.

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