Howard: Israel would support cease-fire if Hizbullah disarmed

Australian PM says acceptable int'l force must be big and have a mandate that allowed it to disarm Hizbullah.

howard 88 (photo credit: )
howard 88
(photo credit: )
Israel would agree to a cease-fire if an international force had the mandate and power to disarm Hizbullah, Australian Prime Minister John Howard said Friday. Howard said Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called him late Thursday to thank Australia for its diplomatic support in the current crisis. "The Israelis, I believe, would be agreeable to a cease-fire provided it was on a proper basis, and they're right about that," Howard told Melbourne Radio 3AW. "If you have a cease-fire on conditions which mean that the problem that caused the latest conflict is going to occur again in the very near future ... there's not much point in having it." An acceptable international stabilization force would have to be big and have a mandate that allowed it to disarm Hizbullah, but that would be "very hard," Howard said. "But this will be a test of the bona fides of people involved in this issue," he said. Howard would not commit Australian troops to such a UN-mandated force. "We'd have to assess our capacity to do so and what form a contribution might take because we do have commitments in a number of other theaters," Howard said, listing Iraq, Afghanistan, East Timor and the Solomon Islands. Howard also said Olmert promised to do all he can to protect Australians in southern Lebanon. An Australian-Israeli dual citizen, who was among nine Israeli soldiers killed in southern Lebanon this week, was to be buried Friday. Howard warned that while Australian dual nationals can join the Israeli army, they risk breaching Australia's new counterterrorism laws if they fight for Hizbullah. "I would have a very negative attitude toward" Lebanese-Australian dual nationals joining Hizbullah, Howard said.