Blair optimistic about cease-fire

Blair refuses to condemn Israel's actions as "disproportionate."

blair speaks  298.88 (photo credit: AP)
blair speaks 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
British Prime Minister Tony Blair is hopeful a United Nations resolution will be agreed over the next few days, paving the way to a cease-fire in Lebanon. Speaking at a monthly news conference at Downing Street on Thursday, Blair said, "I'm now hopeful we will have such a resolution down very shortly and agreed within the next few days. The purpose of that will be to bring about an immediate cease-fire and then put in place the conditions for the international force to come in support of the Lebanese government." Calling it a "very critical time," Blair said the UK, US and France had "been working very hard" on a UN Security Council resolution and that remaining differences were very slight. Blair refused to condemn Israel's actions as "disproportionate." Instead he called for restraint on both sides. "The solution will not come by condemning one side simply by statements we make. It will only come with a cease-fire on both sides," he said. He did condemn comments made by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who said on Thursday that the main cure to the Lebanese conflict was "the elimination of the Zionist regime." "We do need some balance on how we look at this situation, with the Iranian president's call for the elimination of Israel, how helpful is that at this moment in time?" he asked. Blair said it was vital to have a genuine cease-fire as well as security on Israel's northern border. He also said the death of civilians was unacceptable. "The loss of civilian life in Lebanon is unacceptable. What is happening in Lebanon is a catastrophe and it's my job to make sure it stops," Blair said. "I stand in complete solidarity and sympathy with people in Lebanon, innocent people who have died in Israel as well, in what is a terrible, terrible situation, but my job is to bring it to an end," he said. Blair also called for a "revival and re-energizing" of the road map for peace in the Middle East once the Lebanon conflict calms down.