U.S. Supports Quick Passage of U.N. Resolutions on Mideast

Washington - President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the two draft resolutions to be presented to the U.N. Security Council provide a “strong basis” for the end of hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Speaking to reporters August 7 at the president’s ranch in Crawford, Texas, Bush said the resolutions call, respectively, for a “stop of all hostilities” and the introduction of a “robust international force” to help the Lebanese government extend its authority to the southern part of the country that previously had been under the control of Hezbollah.

“The loss of life on both sides of the Lebanese-Israeli border has been a great tragedy,” Bush said. “Millions of Lebanese civilians have been caught in the crossfire of military operations because of the unprovoked attack and kidnappings by Hezbollah. The humanitarian crisis in Lebanon is of deep concern to all Americans, and alleviating it will remain a priority of my government.”

Bush said the United States will work with its international partners to get the resolutions passed “as quickly as possible,” and said their implementation would  “help the international community deliver humanitarian relief and support Lebanon's revival and reconstruction.”

He also said that Israeli civilians “should not have to live in bunkers in fear of missile attacks,” and that by addressing the “underlying conditions” behind this crisis, namely Hezbollah’s ability, as a “state operating within the state,” to provoke a crisis, a lasting peace could be established to protect civilians on both sides of the border.

Secretary Rice acknowledged that both Lebanon and Israel have their own views on how to stop the crisis.

“The views are not going to necessarily be consonant about how to stop it. The international community has a view. But of course we're going to take a little time and listen to the concerns of the parties and see how they can be addressed,” she said.

However, the two draft resolutions would provide a strong basis for ending hostilities and provide for a process to address the root causes, the president and Rice said.

“[W]e also believe that it's going to be very important that this first resolution lay a very quick foundation for passage of the second resolution. So these have to be worked, in a sense, together,” Rice said.

She added that both countries have “more agreement than you might think about how to prevent again a situation in which you have a state within a state able to launch an attack across the Blue Line.”  Both countries respect the international boundary between them, agree that the Lebanese government should extend its authority throughout the country and that armed groups should not be able to operate in southern Lebanon as Hezbollah has, she said.

“I think we have a reasonable basis here that both sides can accept,” Rice said, though she also acknowledged that “there are some issues of timing and sequence that need to be worked out,” as well as “some concerns about when an international force would actually be available.”

Bush said the United States is willing to offer “logistics and command and control” to the international force, but expressed concern that sending American troops “would create a sensation around the world that may not enable us to achieve our objective.”

Asked about U.S. contacts with Syria and Iran, which have been supporting Hezbollah, the president said that after previous contacts with the regime in Damascus, “Syria knows what we think. … The problem is that their response hasn't been very positive. Matter of fact, it hasn't been positive at all.”

He said his administration also has told Iran that the United States is willing to “sit at the table” with Iran if the Iranian government will honor previous nuclear obligations and “verifiably stop enrichment” of nuclear materials.

“[T]here's a way forward for both countries. The choice is theirs,” he said.

The president said the United States wants Lebanon’s democratic government “to survive and to be strengthened,” and added that efforts by terrorist groups to stop the advance of democracies around the world is “the great challenge of this century.”

“[T]his is the beginning of a long struggle against an ideology that is real and profound. It's Islamofacism. It comes in different forms. They [terrorists groups] share the same tactics, which is to destroy people and things in order to create chaos in the hopes that their vision of the world become predominant in the Middle East,” he said.

The transcript of the press availability is available on the White House Web site.