Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The noose tightens

From DEBKAfile July 25, 2006, 12:56 AM (GMT+02:00) ...

Rice learns in Beirut that neither the Lebanese government nor its parliamentary majority wants a ceasefire

Speaking privately to PM Fouad Siniora Monday, July 24, the secretary of state said, according to DEBKAfile’s exclusive Middle East sources: You don’t want to be like the Palestinian Authority which stands by and watches its people go to ruin.

Before taking off for Jerusalem, she also met Nabih Berri, the pro-Syrian Shiite parliamentary speaker. He said later their talks had failed but, according to DEBKAfile, they did arrive at some tactic understandings. Before moving against his Shiite rival Hassan Nasrallah and the Hizballah, Berri preferred to wait for the first cracks to appear in their standing.

The US secretary also interviewed anti-Syrian coalition leaders, known as the “March 14 Camp.” Druze leader Walid Jumblatt remarked that Nasrallah was behaving like Yasser Arafat in the 1982 siege of Beirut. “He is willing to let the Lebanese capital burn while he haggles over terms of surrender.”

The Christian leader Samir Geagea said: The situation is terrible but the calamity has created an opportunity which we must not miss.”

Rice stressed to all her Lebanese interlocutors that the United States had never planned to use Lebanon to fight Iran. Americans, she said, would never forget that Hizballah is a terrorist organization which has murdered Americans and other nationals. Hizballah has a problem not just with the US president but with both houses of congress.

She rejected pro-Syrian leaders’ demand for a ceasefire without first establishing its components. Washington is willing to consider a multinational force, or even a NATO presence, but would insist on the full implementation of Security Council resolution 1559, namely the disarming of Hizballah. This could take place in stages but, first of all, Hizballah must give up its rockets, missiles and heavy weapons.

Condoleezza Rice informed Siniora that she was representing the position President Bush had put before Saudi foreign minister Saud al-Faisal at the White House Sunday, July 23, implying that there was no point in the Lebanese running to the Saudis for help. They would have to cope with the crisis themselves

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