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WORLD Spotlight : HizbullahMeaning Party of God, Hizbullah is a Lebanese organization, with a military arm and a civilian arm, founded in 1982 to fight the Israeli occupation troops, which were in southern Lebanon until the year 2000. Its present leader is Sayyed Hassan Narallah.Hizbullah was "inspired by the success of the Iranian Revolution" and was formed primarily to wage war (both defensive and offensive) against Israel. Hizbullah's political platform has consistently called for the destruction of Israel. The United States and Israel say that Hizbullah has received financial and political assistance, as well as weapons and training, from Iran and Syria. Syria says it supports Hizbullah, but denies supplying it with weapons. Along with Amal Movement, Hizbullah is the main political party and militant organization representing the Shai community in Lebanon. Founded with the aid of Iran and funded by it, Hizbullah follows the distinctly Shiite Islamist ideology developed by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, leader of the Islamic Revolution in Iran..Hizbullah's civilian wing participates in the parliament of Lebanon, taking 11 percent of the seats (14 out of 128); the bloc forms with others, the "Resistance and Development Bloc", 27.3 percent of seats, and has ministers in the current Cabinet. It also runs hospitals, news services, and educational facilities, its Reconstruction Campaign (Jihad al-Bina) is responsible for numerous economic and infrastructural development projects in Lebanon.After the Taif Agreement in 1989 that ended the Lebanese civil war, and which stipulated the "disbanding of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias", Hizbullah has been excluded form such ruling. The Lebanese government did not try to disarm Hizbullah during 1990-2000, considering it a legitimate national resistance force, fighting for the liberation of the south, then occupied by Israel. The withdrawal of Israel from south Lebanon in May 2000, was considered a victory for Hizbullah and boosted its popularity hugely in Lebanon.Since Israel left Southern Lebanon, Hizbullah has defended the area against Israeli incursions and has acted as the area's army. Despite no official declaration, the stated policy of the Lebanese Government has considered Hizbullah the army of South Lebanon. The present crisis in Lebanon resulted after Hizbullah resistance fighters infiltrated the blue line on July 12 in South Lebanon and ambushed an Israeli patrol, killing eight Israeli soldiers and kidnapping two. The operation was called "Truthful Promise" and its aim has been to secure the release of hundreds of Lebanese prisoners still held by Israel since its occupation of the South in 1982, in addition to the many Arab prisoners languishing in Israeli jails, including the thousands of Palestinians under detention. Israel responded with Operation "Just Reward", later renamed "Change of Direction", which is still underwayn--------------------------G-8 leaders craft call for end to Mideast fightingBy Peter Baker and Peter Finn STRELNA, Russia--President Bush and other world leaders put aside their differences Sunday and crafted a plan to stop the fighting in the Middle East, calling on Islamic militias to halt their rocket attacks on Israel and on Israeli forces to end their military response. The plan hammered out after hours of intense negotiations at the Group of Eight summit called for "an immediate end to the current violence" and raised the prospect of an international security force along the Israeli-Lebanese border to separate fighting forces, a potentially significant escalation of outside involvement in the historically volatile region. The statement by the leaders of the world's leading industrial nations placed blame for the intensifying crisis squarely on the "extremist forces" of Hamas and Hizbullah, just as Bush has done from the beginning. But it also went further than he had been willing to go in demanding that Israel "exercise utmost restraint" and "avoid casualties among innocent civilians" in its retaliatory strikes in the Gaza Strip and southern Lebanon. The leaders demanded that Hamas and Hizbullah return unharmed Israeli soldiers they have seized in recent weeks and stop shelling Israeli towns, while telling Israel to call off its military operations, withdraw forces quickly from Gaza and release Palestinian ministers and legislators arrested since the latest wave of conflict began last month. US officials said afterward that the plan envisioned Israel taking those actions only after Hamas and Hizbullah complied first, but the statement did not set an order. The daylong talks that led to the agreement overshadowed the G-8's scheduled agenda on energy, disease and education, demonstrating the deepening alarm over the rising violence in Israel and Lebanon. "We indeed are witnesses to a veritable explosion," said French President Jacques Chirac. "This is a situation of grave, grave concern to us, which occupies us here." The leaders arrived at a czarist seaside palace near St. Petersburg with starkly different views of the crisis, and for a time they appeared unlikely to reach consensus as a Russian official predicted talks would last all night. But just before the leaders adjourned to a 9 p.m. dinner at Konstantinovsky Palace, they settled on language that emphasized areas of agreement, split the difference on disputes and allowed each side to interpret it as it chose. Bush has steadfastly supported Israel, saying it has a right to defend itself after Hamas and Hizbullah guerrillas captured some Israeli soldiers and killed others, while firing hundreds of rockets into Israel. Chirac, on the other hand, has criticized Israel for what he sees as an excessive response that has included bombing airports, roads, bridges, electricity stations and other civilian targets in Lebanon, where Hizbullah operates free of government control. During the discussion, Bush found support from British Prime Minister Tony Blair and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, while Chirac's position was largely shared by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper rounded out the G-8 sessions. But Bush aides said afterward that the leaders found common ground in their broad sense of the situation, without bickering much over the differences. "There wasn't much of an argument at all, much of a discussion at all, about who is responsible," said Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns. "But most of the focus was on trying to end the violence, end the fighting, restore calm." "We achieved satisfactory compromise language that is extremely balanced," said Putin, who is chairing the summit. Putin also said Russia was working to persuade Hizbullah to release the Israelis. "We are using all channels to make efforts to free your soldiers--all channels," he told an Israeli journalist. The two-page statement traced "the root cause" of crisis to attacks by Hizbullah and Hamas, echoing language Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have been using since arriving in Russia for the summit. "The root cause of the problems in the region is the absence of a comprehensive Middle East peace," it said. "The immediate crisis results from efforts by extremist forces to destabilize the region. These extremist elements and those that support them cannot be allowed to plunge the Middle East into chaos and provoke a wider chaos." At the same time, it insisted Israel pull back and included demands that US officials have not made, particularly the release of Palestinian officials. "It is also critical that Israel, while exercising the right to defend itself, be mindful of the strategic and humanitarian consequences of its actions," it said. Still, the statement skipped around some of the most pointed language used by the leaders in recent days. While assailing "those that support" Hizbullah guerrillas, it did not identify them despite US pressure to name Iran and Syria. Chirac and Putin resisted that, with the Russian leader saying there was not enough evidence to assume their complicity. Neither did the statement use the word "disproportionate" to describe Israel's actions as Chirac has or the word "cease-fire" to describe the leaders' goal. Each side insisted it meant those things anyway. At a news conference, Chirac said the statement "states clearly our determination to put an end to this escalation and there be a lasting cease-fire, be it in Gaza or Lebanon". He said the G-8 leaders "expressed our grave reservations as to the disproportionate nature of Israel's provoked response". Burns, briefing reporters traveling with Bush, disputed Chirac's use of the word disproportionate. "That word's not used in the statement," he said. Nor was "cease-fire", even though it described the goal as "an immediate end to the current violence". The distinction, Burns said, is the "necessary precondition" for Israel standing down would be Hamas and Hizbullah backing down first. "It's not a cease-fire," Burns said. "There was no push for a cease-fire this weekend." Chirac pushed for the idea of an international force, and the statement called on the UN Security Council to examine the possibility. Burns said that did not necessarily mean traditional peacekeeping troops, saying the language was deliberately vague to keep options open. Although the summit has been essentially overtaken by the Middle East strife, Putin tried to keep focus also on his chosen topics, particularly energy security. But the list of priorities released by the leaders did little to address investor uncertainties about Russia's extensive oil and gas industries, which are increasingly coming under state control. nLATWP News ServiceQuotesIn the news"See the irony is that what they need to do is get Syria to get Hizbullah to stop doing this s--- and it's over."-- Bush talking to Blair during a private luncheon for the G-8 leaders in St. Petersburg, Russia, not realizing that a microphone was turned on. "They are contractors, acting under the tutelage and with the encouragement of governments that support terrorism and oppose peace, the axis of evil that runs from Tehran to Damascus."--Israeli Prime Minister alluding to Hamas and Hizbullah as acting under direction of Syria and Iran. "Israel now is a terrorist country that is committing every day a terrorist act."-- Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora describing in an interview Israel's brutal war on Lebanon."You wanted an open war and we are ready for an open warC*Soon you will find how stupid your new government is and how it is incapable of reading the situation. It has no experience. You said in your opinion polls that you believe me more than anyone else. Believe me now; you attacked every house in Lebanon and you will pay for that."--Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, Hizbullah's leader, in a TV broadcast addressing Israelis. "To a certain Arab audience and Arab elite, Nasrallah is a champion, but the price is highC*we are paying a high price."--Leader of Lebanon's Druze community, Walid Jumblatt. "If the occupying regime of Jerusalem attacks Syria, it will be equivalent to an attack on the whole Islamic world and the regime (Israel) will face a crushing response."--Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.WORLD

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Publication:The Star (Amman, Jordan)
Date:Jul 22, 2006
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