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EU Denies Giving Green Light To Israel.

The EU on July 27 said it did not give Israel the green light to continue its offensive against Hizbullah as air strikes were stepped up across Lebanon. Israeli Justice Minister Haim Ramon had said Israel viewed divisions among world leaders meeting in Rome on July 26 as "permission" to continue operations. But Finland's Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency, said Israel's interpretation was "totally wrong". Italy's PM Romano Prodi said: "The position expressed by the [Rome] conference cannot be interpreted as an authorisation".

The conference, which brought together the US with European and Arab governments, failed to produce a call for an immediate ceasefire. Delegates said that virtually all states had sought a quick end to hostilities but were forced to agree to a milder statement by the US. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier spoke out against Israel's interpretation: "I would say just the opposite. In Rome, it was clear that everyone present wanted to see an end to the fighting as swiftly as possible".

An Israeli cabinet meeting on July 27 decided against a big invasion but called up 30,000 troops, the day after 9 soldiers were killed in the heaviest loss in a single battle during the offensive. Any deployment of the new troops would need cabinet approval, which was seen as a move towards reassuring Damascus that Israel was not planning a war against Syria.

Washington says it wants a "durable" and "sustainable" ceasefire, an attitude European diplomats say is aimed at giving Israel more time to weaken Hizbullah. The offensive has failed to stop Hizbullah rocket attacks, 151 of which were launched into northern Israel on July 27. The Israeli army on July 27 warned people in south Lebanon their villages would be "totally destroyed" if missiles were fired from them. Israeli PM Olmert told the cabinet the offensive's goals were being met with air strikes and limited incursions. But senior military officials were reporting to be pushing for a wider campaign to neutralise Hizbullah. Rice was to return to the Middle East on July 29 with a plan, following Bush's talks with PM Tony Blair in Washington on July 28.
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Publication:APS Diplomat News Service
Geographic Code:7ISRA
Date:Jul 31, 2006
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