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ARAB-US RELATIONS - July 24 - Rice ideas for peace disappoint in Beirut.

US State Sec Condoleezza Rice, arrives in Israel from Lebanon on a visit aimed at creating conditions for a "sustainable ceasefire" in Israel's war with Hizbullah. Rice was due to meet Israeli FM Tzipi Livni last night and PM Ehud Olmert this day. She will also meet Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas. Earlier yesterday Rice held talks with Lebanese PM Fouad Siniora and government officials. As ground fighting raged in south Lebanon between the forces of Israel and Hizbullah, Rice told Siniora: Thank you for your courage and steadfastness". Although Washington has rejected the Lebanese PM's appeals for an immediate ceasefire, she told reporters: We all want to urgently end the fighting. We have absolutely the same goal". Political sources in Beirut said Rice's proposals fell short of what the government was expecting. The US is advocating deployment of an international force, along with the Lebanese army, south of the Litani river, the region Israel has invaded to try to stop Hizbullah rocket attacks on northern Israel. Siniora, however, wants a more comprehensive deal, addressing all disputes between Lebanon and Israel. His government says it needs cards in its hands - including an Israeli willingness to withdraw from the occupied Shebaa farms, which Beirut claim sovereignty over, and an exchange of prisoners - if it is to have a chance of persuading Hizbullah to compromise. Sources say deployment of an international force alone would put the government in a position of confrontation with Hizbullah, something it is seeking to avoid. Israel threw more troops into the ground offensive July 23. Having captured the border village of Maroun al-Ras, the focus of the armoured and infantry assault switched to nearby Bint Jbail, Hizbullah's self-styled "capital of the resistance". "Bint Jbail is a symbol of Hizbullah", said Dan Halutz, Israeli chief of staff, claiming a few hundred Hizbullah fighters were in the area along with 500 civilians who had not heeded Israeli warnings to flee. Infantry began entering the town after 11 Israelis were wounded in fighting earlier in the day. Two Israeli pilots were killed when their Apache attack helicopter crashed near the northern Israeli town of Safed. The military blamed the crash on a malfunction after Hizbullah claimed its fighters had shot it down. Hassan Nasrallah, Hizbullah leader, whose forces continued to rain rocket fire on northern Israel, dismissed the loss of Maroun al-Ras and the impact of the Israeli offensive. "The Israeli media speaks of Maroun al-Ras as if it were the battle of Stalingrad", he told Lebanese daily as-Safir. Rice insisted that any ceasefire must be with the Lebanese government rather than with Hizbullah. The US administration says it wants a long-lasting peace that would remove the Hizbullah rocket threat to Israel. The US has been criticised, even by some allies, for allowing Israel a free hand to pursue its war aiin Lebanon. Yossi Ben-Ari, former Israel intelligence officer, said: Israel has never enjoyed such broad American support for both its policies and military actions as it does today".
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Title Annotation:Condoleezza Rice
Publication:APS Diplomat Recorder
Geographic Code:7ISRA
Date:Jul 29, 2006
Previous Article:ARAB-US RELATIONS - July 24 - Hizbullah Rejects US Peace Plan.
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