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Archive for Monday, July 17, 2006

G-8 leaders issue statement on crisis

July 17, 2006

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— The United States and other world leaders reached an accord Sunday on a statement faulting the militant wings of Hezbollah and Hamas for violence that threatens "to plunge the Middle East into chaos," but also called on Israel "to exercise utmost restraint" in its retaliation.

Maintaining that the Middle East crisis stems from the efforts of "extremist forces" to destabilize the region, the leaders of the Group of Eight leading industrial nations said "these extremist elements and those that support them cannot be allowed to plunge the Middle East into chaos and provoke a wider conflict."

While the consensus G-8 statement issued at an island summit here calls on Israel to exercise restraint and "be mindful of the strategic and humanitarian consequences of its actions," it falls short of a condemnation of Israel for fierce retaliatory attacks that some, including Russian leaders, wanted to condemn.

To create conditions for a cessation of violence, the G-8 called for the return of Israeli soldiers held captive in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon, an end to rocket and missile attacks against Israeli territory, an end to Israeli military operations in Lebanon, the withdrawal of forces from Gaza and release of the arrested Palestinian ministers and parliamentarians.

President Bush, resisting calls from other G-8 leaders for an immediate cease-fire in the conflict, gained support from other world leaders here in saying that the "root cause" of the conflict must first be addressed - Hezbollah's determination to disrupt any peace.

And in calling Hezbollah responsible for the conflict, Bush and other leaders increasingly are pointing to the responsibility that Syria and Iran also bear for financial and moral support of the militant organization based in Lebanon.

For all their public agreement on some questions in the Middle East conflict, leaders of the G-8 nations struggled to craft a statement, with the Russians reportedly pressing for a strong statement of criticism for Israel's handling of the conflict.

The U.S. had been most outspoken about Israel's right to defend itself, with Bush urging leaders to call Syria and Iran to task for their support of Hezbollah.

Russia, which has longstanding military and economic ties with Iran and Syria, avoided criticizing either country Sunday, though Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Syria should be involved in talks aimed at defusing the crisis in Lebanon. Several leaders of both Hezbollah and Hamas live in Syria.

"We have to work with those who can influence the situation and achieve a resolution in which the soldiers are freed," Lavrov said.

Russia is building Iran's first nuclear reactor in the Persian Gulf port of Bushehr. Moscow has discussed with Damascus the sale of SA-18 anti-aircraft missiles to Syria, negotiations that drew concerns from Israel that missiles could fall into Hezbollah's hands.

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