Rice Says Settlement of Israel-Hizballah Conflict Taking Form

By David Shelby
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington – Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says there is a growing consensus on a possible settlement to the conflict between Israel and Hizballah and expects to see the U.N. Security Council act on a proposal within the week.

“Based on what we have accomplished, and the urgency of the situation, we will call for United Nations Security Council action this week on a comprehensive settlement that includes three parts: a cease fire, the political principles that provide for a long-term settlement, and the authorization of an international force to support the Lebanese army in keeping the peace,” she told reporters prior to leaving Jerusalem July 31.

Speaking to an audience in Miami, Florida, July 31, President Bush said the necessary conditions for a sustainable long-term settlement include the extension of Lebanese government sovereignty over its entire territory, the introduction of an international stabilization force and an end to Iranian and Syrian support for Hizballah.

“This approach will make … possible what so many around the world want to see:  the end of Hezbollah's attacks on Israel, the return of the Israeli soldiers taken hostage by the terrorists, the suspension of Israel's operations in Lebanon, and the eventual withdrawal of Israeli forces,” he said.

Rice said the mission of the international force would be to assist the Lebanese armed forces in deploying up to the Blue Line along the Lebanese-Israeli border, help police the Lebanese-Syrian border, support humanitarian efforts and the return of displaced persons, and create an environment in which the provisions of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559 and the Taif Accords can be implemented.

Both the 1989 Taif Accords, which brought an end to Lebanon’s 15-year civil war, and Resolution 1559, call for the disbanding of all militias in Lebanon and the extension of Lebanese government control over the entire territory of Lebanon.

Rice said that “armed groups must be prohibited in the areas where the international force is deployed” and that “an international embargo must be enforced against the delivery of weapons to anyone other than the government of Lebanon or the stabilization force.”

She said Lebanon should disarm armed groups with the assistance of the international community.

The secretary’s statements came one day after an Israeli air strike in Qana, Lebanon, killed dozens of civilians, including many children.  Rice said she was deeply saddened by such losses, particularly the death of children on both sides of the conflict.  (See related article.)

“Too many families have been displaced.  Too many people urgently need medical care, or are living in shelters,” she said.

Speaking to reporters on the flight back to Washington, Rice said it is difficult for her to see the conditions Lebanon finds itself in after the hopeful moments of the March 2005 Cedar Revolution and the success of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559 in forcing Syria to withdraw its forces from Lebanon.

“But,” she added, “I know what caused this.  And I know that there are underlying circumstances having to do with the need to really make this a strong and democratic government that can really extend its authority, that can rebuild its army, that can shield itself from harmful foreign influences, that cannot … have its territory be used in the way that Hezbollah, without its knowledge, used its territory, really sinking then the whole area into the kind of crisis that we’ve got.”

The secretary called on the international community to lend its support to the emerging settlement as it works its way through the U.N. Security Council.

“To make a cease-fire more than words alone, the international community must be prepared to support and sustain it - and I call on my international partners to do so this week in New York,” she said.

Bush laid the responsibility for the three-week old conflict on Hizballah, whose July 12 rocket attacks on northern Israel and kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers triggered the Israeli assault.

“The current crisis is part of a larger struggle between the forces of freedom and the forces of terror in the Middle East,” he said.

He said that with the spread of democracy in the Middle East, “the people of that troubled region will have a better future.”

A transcript of Rice’s remarks in Jerusalem and a transcript of her remarks en route to the United States can be found at the State Department Web site.

A transcript of Bush’s remarks can be found at the White House Web site.