British Prime Minister Tony Blair and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan called Monday for the deployment of international forces to stop Hezbollah from bombing Israel.
“The blunt reality is that this violence is not going to stop unless we create the conditions for the cessation of violence,” Blair said after talks with Annan on the margins of the G-8 summit.
To help stop the fighting, the European Union in Brussels announced it is considering deploying a peacekeeping force in Lebanon. France, meanwhile, said it is sending Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin to Beirut to express support for Lebanon’s government.
“The only way we’re going to get a cessation of hostilities is if we have the deployment of an international force into that area that can stop the bombardment over into Israel and therefore gives Israel a reason to stop its attacks on Hezbollah,” Blair said.
The leaders of major industrialized countries — the United States, Russia, Japan, Germany, Britain, France, Italy and Canada — convened Monday for their final sessions with seven leaders of the developing world.
U.N. diplomat contacts Israel
Vijay Nambiar, Annan’s special political adviser, said he will present Israel with “concrete ideas” to end the latest round of fighting after meeting with Lebanon’s prime minister but warned that “much diplomatic work needs to be done.”
He said he was optimistic about his peace efforts to end the 6-day-old bombardment of Lebanon by Israeli warplanes and rocket attacks by Hezbollah guerrillas on Israel.
“We have made some promising first efforts on the way forward,” he said.
Annan appeals for restraint
Mark Regev, a spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry said that his country would welcome a more energetic and decisive international effort to bring about immediate and full implementation of Security Council resolutions 1559 and 1680, which call for the disarmament of Hezbollah.
Annan also appealed to Israel to abide by international law, spare civilian lives and infrastructure. “We should not inflict any more suffering on them,” Annan said. “Both parties should bear that in mind and respect international humanitarian law.”
Annan said the United Nations was considering evacuation plans for U.N. dependents from Lebanon, while Blair said Britain was looking at the possibility of creating an air bridge for its citizens.
G-8 leaders seek consensus
On Sunday, the G-8 leaders had struggled to come up with a unified position on how to deal with the escalating warfare between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon. The leaders’ statement said extremist groups cannot be allowed to plunge the Middle East into violence. It also urged Israel to exercise restraint in its military campaign.
The statement was a compromise between a U.S. position strongly supporting Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorist attacks and the views of other G-8 countries that Israel was engaging in excessive force.
The statement was carefully written so that different countries could claim it said different things.
- French President Jacques Chirac said Monday that “some means of coercion” may be needed to enforce a U.N. resolution that calls for the disarmament of militias. He also said it was evident from the statement that the G-8 was calling for a cease-fire on both sides of the conflict.
- But Nicholas Burns, U.S. undersecretary of state for political affairs, disagreed, saying, “There was no push by any country for a cease-fire.” The Bush administration also insisted the call for halting Israeli airstrikes was conditioned on Hezbollah releasing captured Israeli soldiers and ending missile attacks on Israel, although the statement was not clear on these points.
- The U.S. view was supported by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. She said the soldiers must be returned unharmed and attacks on Israel must stop. “Then, of course, also the Israeli military action must be ended,” she said.
- Iran’s foreign minister said Monday that a cease-fire and an exchange of prisoners would be acceptable and fair in the Israeli-Lebanese conflict.
- President Vladimir Putin said Monday that Russia would consider contributing troops to an international force in the Middle East if the United Nations approves deployment.