'Hizbullah amassing long-range missiles'

Mofaz, Rice discuss Middle East security issues; talks focus on Iran, Syria.

mofaz .298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
mofaz .298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Hizbullah is rearming with long-range missiles, in violation of the cease-fire agreement that ended the Second Lebanon War, Transportation Minister and former IDF chief of staff Shaul Mofaz said Thursday morning, a day after the Lebanese army seized a shipment of weapons earmarked for Hizbullah. The confiscated arms included Grad rockets, machine guns, and ammunition. It was not clear whether the militants were transferring the weapons within the country or bringing the shipment in from neighboring Syria, as they have reportedly done in the past. On Wednesday, Mofaz met with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met on Wednesday to discuss security issues in the Middle East. While talks focused largely on Iran, the officials also discussed a possible Israeli peace initiative towards Syria.
  • 'Syria, Iran, Hizbullah planning war' "Iran continues a military nuclear program," said Mofaz after the meeting. "I believe diplomatic efforts should bear results by the end of 2007." The minister also requested that the US increase its involvement in retrieving kidnapped IDF soldiers Gilad Schalit, Ehud Goldwasser, and Eldad Regev. "It's been nearly a year and there is no solution on the horizon," said Mofaz to reporters in Washington. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said he was not aware of any discussion of a deadline for diplomacy during Rice's meeting with Mofaz. Rice's discussions with Mofaz also touched on the possibility that Israel would re-launch peace efforts with Syria. The United States has frowned on that approach in the past, preferring to focus on peace prospects between Israel and the Palestinians and worried that Syria would use the contact as diplomatic leverage with the United States. "We're not going to manage Israeli foreign policy," McCormack said later, adding that Israel will make its own decisions. "But let's take a look at Syria's behavior over the recent past, and I don't think you're going to find many indications of Syria showing the rest of the world that they are interested in playing a constructive, positive role in trying to bring about a more peaceful, secure region." Mofaz said Israel is also focused on the Palestinian track, which he called "our first priority." Defense Minister Amir Peretz said Israel must probe any possibility of diplomacy with Syria. "A diplomatic process with Syria could immediately and dramatically change the balance on three fronts [Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinian front]," he told Israel Radio, "so picking up the gauntlet, or exploring any chance for sincere negotiations with Syria is, in my opinion, an option that absolutely must not be neglected."