Lebanon asks Turkey to help mediate

Turkish PM: Turkey to "make every kind of contribution" for cease-fire.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday spoke by phone with his Lebanese counterpart Fuad Saniora, who requested Turkish mediation for a cease-fire to end the spiraling violence in the Middle East, an official said. The Turkish premier told Saniora Turkey would "make every kind of contribution" for a cease-fire, Erdogan's spokesman, Akif Beki, told The Associated Press, but gave no further information. Predominantly Muslim Turkey has been trying to play a mediating role between Israel and Palestinians and has criticized Israel, a close ally, for using excessive force in its offensives in the Middle East. Earlier on Saturday, Erdogan racheted up the criticism, accusing the country of engaging in ruthless violence. Erdogan also called on the powerful Group of Eight nations, currently meeting in Russia, to reach a joint decision that would allow the United Nations Security Council to establish a cease-fire to end the spiraling violence. The G-8 countries, the United States, Russia, Japan, Germany, Britain, France, Italy and Canada, were expected to issue a declaration on the Lebanon crisis. "No reason can ever justify the raining of bombs on innocent civilians, the destruction of cities that exceed the limits of mercy," Erdogan said during a ceremony to launch a housing project in the eastern city of Artvin, according to the Anatolia news agency. "I appeal to the G-8 countries: the G-8 must reach a common decision, the U.N. Security Council must declare a cease-fire," he said. At least 88 people have died in Lebanon, most of them civilians, in a four-day Israeli offensive sparked by Hezbollah's capture of two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid. On the Israeli side, at least 15 have been killed; four civilians and 11 soldiers. Also Saturday, Turkey evacuated some 30 of its citizens from Lebanon by bus through Syria. A bus carrying mostly Turkish businessmen and tourists crossed into Turkey at the Turkish-Syrian border crossing of Yaylidere early Saturday. It also carried two French citizens, Anatolia said. Several Lebanese and French citizens also arrived at Yaylidere in private cars or taxis to escape the fighting, the agency reported.