RICE TO RETURN TO MIDEAST TO WORK ON TRUCE
By KATHERINE SHRADER, Associated Press Writer Fri Jul 28, 2:50 PM ET
- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will return
to the Middle East this weekend to work with others on trying to bring an end to the Israeli-Hezbollah
President Bush, holding a news conference in Washington Friday with visiting British Prime Minister Tony Blair, announced Rice's return to the region she visited just a week ago amid escalating violence.
Earlier, Rice's spokesman,
Adam Ereli, took strong issue with an assertion by Israel's
Justice Minister Haim Ramon, who said the failure of world leaders to call for an immediate cease-fire at a summit in Rome
gave Israel a green light to carry on with its campaign to crush Hezbollah.
"Any such statement is outrageous,"
Ereli said. "The United States is sparing
no effort to bring a durable and lasting end to this conflict."
Rice also said: "I think
everybody in Rome agreed that we can't return to the circumstances
that led us to this in the first place."
The United States, adopting a diplomatic stance that has not been
embraced by allies, has been insisting that any cease-fire to the violence over the last three weeks must come with conditions
to address long-standing regional disputes. That, she has said, will ensure a durable solution.
Nearly every U.S. ally has called for a quick truce to end the bloodshed
and efforts to smooth needed humanitarian supplies to the Lebanese. They believe the difficult work solving of old grievances
between Hezbollah and Israel can come
White House spokesman Tony
Snow said the administration would "push back" against criticism of the United
Rice has spent three days
dashing to high-stakes meetings in Beirut, Jerusalem, the West Bank and Rome, and
then traveled to Malaysia on Thursday
for the long-planned conference of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Her comments did not make clear if she was
returning to the region this weekend, while she is her current trip, although it is clearly the hope of her diplomatic entourage.
At her news conference Friday,
Rice said that before returning to the region, she wanted to confer with Elliot Abrams and David Welch, her U.S. envoys who arrived in Jerusalem
on Thursday afternoon. Because of the time zone disparity, she said, they were just beginning their day's work.
Rice got an exceptional
— but not unusual — welcome during her stop in Israel
this week. But she has faced a series of difficult sessions with world leaders elsewhere who take exception with the course
the U.S. is charting in the conflict on
the Lebanese-Israeli border.
Sitting beside Malaysian
Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar at the news conference, Rice said, "I recognize the tremendous concern that the Malaysian
government and other governments here have about the unfolding situation in the Middle East."
"We all are concerned about
the humanitarian situation there and want to see as early an end to the conflict as possible," she added. "Whole generations
have grown up there without the prospect for peace."
Asked what she hoped to
accomplish when she does return to the region, Rice said, "We hope to achieve an early end to this violence, that's what we
hope to achieve."
"That means that we have
to help the parties establish conditions that will make it possible for an early cease-fire that, nonetheless, does not return
us to the status quo."
She said the terms and conditions
of a such a cease-fire would involve "a multinational force under U.N. supervision" that would have a mandate to enforce a
"So, many of the elements
are there" for such an arrangement, Rice added. "There is no doubt in my mind that we want to achieve this and achieve it
as soon as possible."
As the death toll and devastation
rise, world attention has increasingly focused on the fighting between Israel
and Hezbollah. Al-Qaida's No. 2 leader Ayman al-Zawahri weighed in Thursday, calling for Muslims to unite in a holy war against
Israel and to join the fighting in Lebanon
and Gaza until Islam reigns from "Spain
Asked by reporters traveling
with Rice about why she delayed her trip to the Middle East, her spokesman noted that diplomacy
is an evolving process. "It is not something that is set in stone from the beginning and follows a prewritten script," Ereli
British Prime Minister Tony
Blair, en route to Washington to meet Friday with Bush, said he will seek a U.N. resolution to resolve the crisis by early
next week, his spokesman told reporters on customary condition of anonymity.
The European Union's foreign policy chief Javier Solana said, "Everybody wants
a cease-fire, everybody. We want the cease-fire to be durable and to be as soon as possible."
Crucial to any agreement,
he said, is a legal package from the U.N. Security Council
that would potentially deploy an international force to help the Lebanese government secure its entire territory.