World worries about Mideast violence

Bush promises Lebanon's leader he will urge IDF to avoid civilian casualties.

blair closing eyes 88 (photo credit: AP)
blair closing eyes 88
(photo credit: AP)
World leaders across the globe expressed concern on Frioday about the ongoing violence between Israel and Lebanon. Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki on Friday said the United Nations and international community should intervene immediately to stop the ongoing IDF attacks in Lebanon. "The situation in Palestine and Lebanon is worrying and dangerous," Mottaki said after talks in Athens with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and senior Greek diplomats. "The international community and the United Nations must intervene to stop this crime," he said. "We noted the opinions of the Greece, given its very good relations with countries of the Middle East. And we discussed the actions that must be taken by all sides to reduce the tension," contiued Mottaki, adding that Israel should exchange prisoners in its jails for the soldiers Meanwhile, US President George W. Bush promised Lebanon's leader that he would urge Israel to avoid civilian casualties and damage as it stepped up attacks on its neighbor. Meanwhile, US President George W. Bush promised Lebanon's leader that he would urge Israel to avoid civilian casualties and damage as it stepped up attacks on its neighbor "President Bush affirmed his readiness to put pressure on Israel to limit the damage to Lebanon as a result of the current military action, and to spare civilians and innocent people from harm," a statement said. But Bush's promise to Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora fell short of the Lebanese leader's request for pressure for a cease-fire, according to an account from Saniora's office. The White House confirmed the call, but would provide no details of the discussions. Earlier, the European Union said that it was concerned that the fighting in Lebanon may spread, drawing Syria into the conflict, with uncontrollable consequences. "We consider the situation to be very bad, and there is the continuing possibility that it could worsen, that the conflict could expand, especially to Syria," said Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja of Finland, whose country now holds the EU presidency. "This is in no way desirable, and the consequences could be truly uncontrollable." Tuomioja said the EU has not been in touch with Syrian officials on a "political level," but that the country had been reticent in replying to the bloc's requests on the possibility of evacuating its citizens from the region through Syria. "We haven't been in direct contact with the Syrians; we have been in consular contact about the evacuation routes through Syria of our citizens," Tuomioja told reporters. "But the experience and the information from others is that Syria has been ... unforthcoming in its responses so far." Meanwhile, President Jacques Chirac said that the IDF was "totally disproportionate" and asked whether destroying Lebanon was not the ultimate goal. "One could ask if today there is not a sort of will to destroy Lebanon, its equipment, its roads, its communication," Chirac said during an interview in the garden of the presidential Elysee Palace to mark Bastille Day, the French national holiday. However, Chirac said that he believed another country - likely Syria - was behind the actions of the militant groups Hamas and Hezbollah. "I have the feeling, if not the conviction, that Hamas and Hezbollah wouldn't have taken the initiatives alone," Chirac said. "There is, without any doubt, an action which must be discussed with Syria," the French president said. Earlier, Turkey's Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul called on all fighting sides to speedily declare a cease fire before it was too late. "A deep instability can occur in the region. The first thing to do is to cease fire immediately and calmly seek ways out of this," Gul told reporters. Otherwise, Gul said violence could dramatically escalate and kill chances of living together, the state-run Anatolia news agency reported. Gul, meanwhile, said Turkey was trying to evacuate its citizens from Lebanon. British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his Canadian counterpart, Stephen Harper, called for an international effort to quell the renewed violence. Blair - who was meeting with Harper before this weekend's G-8 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia - said fellow world leaders must also press the case for long-term solutions to strife in the region. "I want to emphasize just how serious I think this is," Blair said. "I entirely understand the desire, and indeed need, for Israel to defend itself properly, and I also understand the plight of Lebanon and the Lebanese government, not to say the many Palestinians that suffer as well." "What is happening is absolutely tragic for all the people involved, but the only solution is that the international community empowers the moderates on both sides to come to a resolution," Blair told reporters at his Downing Street office. Blair said he believed that, as soon as possible, negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian authorities must "get back on the road map toward a two-state solution, as it offers the only chance for stability and peace in the future." He said the issue would be raised at the St. Petersburg summit, but denied claims Europe and the United States are divided on their response to the renewed violence. "The truth of the matter is there is total international unanimity on a two-state solution," Blair said. Harper said he believed escalation of the violence was inevitable unless kidnapped Israeli soldiers were returned. He also called on the Palestinian Hamas government to renounce violence and to recognize the right of Israel to exist. "The international community does share a view about what the ultimate solution is," Harper said. "The real secret to that is how we in the international community can find some way of empowering on both sides, forces of moderation and forces that are inclined to negotiation rather than violence."