Pressure mounts on Bush to call for immediate cease-fire in Middle East
Published: Tuesday, August 1, 2006 at 11:06 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, August 1, 2006 at 11:06 a.m.
President Bush is pressing for a United Nations resolution linking a cease-fire between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon with a broader plan for peace in the Middle East, despite rising international pressure for a simple no-strings-attached halt to the fighting.
Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the president's national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, discussed the next steps over dinner at the White House on Monday.
Late Tuesday, Shimon Peres, Israel's deputy prime minister, was due to see Rice at the State Department and provide an updating of the situation and Israel's military intentions.
Bush "reviewed the diplomatic efforts that the United States is pursuing in our effort to end the current conflict in Lebanon," National Security Council spokesman Frederick Jones said afterward. "The next step is to pursue a United Nations Security Council resolution that will establish a sustainable cease-fire on an urgent basis. This process began in New York today."
Israel's attack that killed 65 civilians in Qana on Sunday, the deadliest single incident in the Israeli onslaught against Hezbollah militants, prompted Rice to cut short her trip to the region.
Earlier, Bush stood fast by his insistence that any cease-fire be accompanied by the disarming of Hezbollah militia, a return of two kidnapped Israel soldiers and a cessation of support for Hezbollah by the governments of Iran and Syria.
"We want there to be a long-lasting peace, one that is sustainable," Bush said in a speech in Miami.
And, in an interview with Fox News Channel, Bush acknowledged that the Qana deaths had added pressure on Israel to stop bombing. But, he said, "Stopping for the sake of stopping can be OK, except it won't address the root cause of the problem."
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the "center of gravity in terms of diplomatic activity is, I think, shifting to New York now."
He said he hoped for a resolution later in the week.
"As for any more durable action, I think that is something that, again, we're trying to negotiate with our international partners, with the Israeli government, with the Lebanese government and others, so that you have a durable cease-fire that takes place within a political context that a cease-fire supports," McCormack said.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan initially had planned to hold a meeting Monday that would have brought together nations willing to send troops for an expanded U.N. peacekeeping force. But diplomats said the meeting was postponed to give more time for efforts to bring peace to the region.
However, the Bush administration's resistance to a simple and immediate cease-fire was losing support around the world.
And, although pro-Israel sentiment runs deep in Congress, Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., broke with the president on Monday and said Israel's pounding of Lebanon was hurting, not helping, America's image in the Middle East.
"The sickening slaughter on both sides must end now," Hagel said. "This madness must stop." Hagel has also been critical of the administration's Iraq policy.
Former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw condemned Israel's response to Hezbollah rocket strikes as "disproportionate," suggesting a split between Prime Minister Tony Blair and other members of his Cabinet.
Straw, who was removed from his post in May, is the Leader of the Commons, a senior Cabinet position.
Blair denies a Cabinet rift, but has said the U.S. must work faster to stop the violence.
Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora said the talk of a larger peace package must wait until the firing stops.
Israeli warplanes carried out airstrikes in southern Lebanon on Monday, hours after the Israeli government agreed to a 48-hour halt while investigating its bombing in Qana.
En route home from the region Monday, Rice said that in response to a U.S. request for clarification on the new airstrikes, "the Israelis tell us that it's close air support for their forces that were being engaged."
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