Rice says Rome talks were not a failure

Syria: Conflict due to Israel's occupation of Palestine, Syria and Lebanon.

annan rice rome 298 (photo credit: AP)
annan rice rome 298
(photo credit: AP)
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Thursday morning that the previous day's crisis talks held on Lebanon between US, European and Arab officials were not a failure, despite the fact that officials did not agree on an immediate plan to force an end to the fighting between Israel and Hizbullah. "Just because no exact time frame was set for stopping the violence does not mean the summit failed. We discussed the important preconditions needed to reach a cease fire and there was an agreement on the necessity to deploy a mass international force in Lebanon, the details of which will be discussed next week," Rice told reporters on the plane on her way to a meeting with South East Asian leaders in Malaysia. Meanwhile, Syria's representative to the United Nations, Bashar al-Ga'afari, disagreed, saying that the summit failed to reach its goals because the relevant parties were not present. "The fate of a region cannot be determined by others 3000 kilometers away," said Ga'afari. He added that while leaders debated the deployment of an international force, they failed to focus on the cause of the conflict, which was "Israel's occupation of Palestine, Syria and Lebanon." During the summit, although officials called for an end to the violence, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said any cease-fire must be "sustainable" and that there could be "no return to the status quo ante." United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan called for the formation of a multinational force to help Lebanon assert its authority and implement UN resolutions which would leave Hizbullah disarmed. After listening to a dramatic appeal from Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Saniora for them to stop the killing, the officials said they had agreed on the need to deploy an international force under the aegis of the United Nations in southern Lebanon. "Participants expressed their determination to work immediately to reach, with utmost urgency, a cease-fire that puts an end to the current violence and hostilities. The cease-fire must be lasting, permanent and sustainable," said Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema at the close of the meeting. He said many of the participants in the meeting appealed for an immediate and unconditional truce. Referring to the cease-fire, D'Alema said, "To obtain this objective, you must exercise pressure on all parties involved, directly and indirectly, on who can exercise influence on Hizbullah and on Israel." "We asked Israel for maximum restraint" to respect civilians and infrastructure, he said.