Saturday, July 29, 2006

Bush Sees a Chance for Change to Sweep Mideast

From the New York Times, July 28, 2006, by DAVID STOUT ...

WASHINGTON, July 28 — President Bush, vowing to turn conflict in the Middle East into a “moment of opportunity” for broader change, said today that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice would be dispatched back to the region on Saturday with a plan for a multinational force that would help Lebanon’s army take over from Hezbollah in the southern part of the country.

Mr. Bush spoke this afternoon at a press conference with Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain....Mr. Bush said that the “root cause” of the problem was Hezbollah.
“For the sake of long-term stability, we’ve got to deal with this issue now,” Mr. Bush said.
“This is a moment of intense conflict in the Middle East,” Mr. Bush said. “Yet our aim is to turn it into a moment of opportunity and a chance for broader change in the region.”

Both leaders spoke of the need to impose United Nations resolution 1559, which calls for disarming Hezbollah and deploying the Lebanese Army to the border. Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair said the resolution would provide for an international force to keep peace in southern Lebanon but that, in the long run, the Lebanese government must be able to control the entire country.
“We want a Lebanon free of militias and foreign interference,” Mr. Bush said. “We can indeed bring an end to this crisis,” Mr. Blair said. But he agreed with Mr. Bush that, unless Lebanese leaders are empowered to control their nation rather than cede part of it to Hezbollah militants, “nothing will work” for very long.

....The two leaders... repeatedly emphasized they mutually agreed they want a cease-fire that will last, as well as a quick end to the killing. There was no indication in their public remarks that they differed on how to bring calm to Lebanon. A spokesman for Mr. Blair said beforehand that the prime minister would try to “increase the urgency” of diplomacy to stop the unrest.

Asked how soon the violence might end, Mr. Blair said, “as soon as possible,” if agreement on a United Nations resolution can be reached next week. Asked whether any multinational force would “effect” or “police” a ceasefire, Mr. Blair said the plan could work only if Hezbollah was prepared to allow it to work. “We have got to make sure, therefore, that we have the force go in as part of an agreement that the government of Lebanon has bound itself to, the government of Israel has bound itself to, the international community has bound itself to.”

He continued: “Hezbollah has got to appreciate, if they stand out against that, then it’s not merely that they will be doing a huge disservice to the people of Lebanon, but they will also again face the fact that action will have to be taken against them.”

...Mr. Blair said Iran — a main supporter of Hezbollah — and Syria will be making “a strategic miscalculation” of grave importance if they continue to interfere in Lebanon’s affairs.
Mr. Bush said that, despite the bloodshed in Lebanon, Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East, democracy is taking root in the region and will flower “unless we lose our nerve.”

“This government isn’t going to quit,” Mr. Bush said.....

David Stout reported from Washington.Christine Hauser contributed reporting from New York and Helene Cooper from Kuala Lumpur.

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