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Archive for Saturday, July 15, 2006

Bush refuses to press Israel for cease-fire

July 15, 2006

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— President Bush refused to press Israel for a cease-fire in Mideast violence Friday, risking a wider breach with world leaders at a weekend summit already confronting crises with Iran and North Korea.

Flying here from Germany, Bush called the leaders of Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan to explore ways to end three days of furious fighting between Israel and Hezbollah militants in Lebanon. Turning aside complaints that Israel is using excessive force, Bush rejected a cease-fire plea from Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora.

"The president is not going to make military decisions for Israel," White House press secretary Tony Snow said. He said it was unlikely that either side would agree to a cease-fire now.

The eruption of Mideast violence moved prominently onto the agenda of the summit beginning today.

In contrast with Bush's stand, Russian President Vladimir Putin said, "No hostage-takings are acceptable ... but neither is the use of full-scale force in response to these, even if unlawful, actions. We will demand that all sides involved in the conflict immediately stop the bloodshed."

The summit is expected to issue a Mideast declaration, and the United States tried to shape it to be critical of Hezbollah and supportive of Lebanon's fragile government.

Bush met with Putin ahead of today's opening of the annual summit of eight leading industrial powers.

Despite political strains, the two leaders shook hands and hugged. "Solid friendship," Bush said of Putin as they and their wives went to dinner in a villa on the grounds of the opulent 18th century Konstantin Palace. The two leaders also will hold a news conference today.

Bush's firm support of Israel caused friction with allies as he seeks consensus against Iran and North Korea for their suspected nuclear weapons programs. The European Union has criticized Israel for using "disproportionate" force. From Russia to Spain, leaders voiced concern at the escalation of the conflict.

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