- The Washington Times - Monday, July 17, 2006

ST. PETERSBURG — President Bush said yesterday that he would send Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to the Middle East “pretty soon” and expressed impatience with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s proposal of an immediate cease-fire as the solution to the escalating crisis in the region.

The diplomacy of the discourse at the Group of Eight summit in this Baltic Sea city was shattered when Mr. Bush was caught using profanity on an open microphone at a luncheon of the leaders of the eight major industrialized nations. The president was heard describing Hezbollah in vulgar terms.

Mr. Bush, nibbling on a buttered roll and ordering a Diet Coke as he chatted informally with the other leaders, gave a candid assessment of the Hezbollah terror campaign to Prime Minister Tony Blair — using a familiar word describing excrement — apparently unaware that a microphone nearby was live. Television networks, including CNN, aired the tape throughout the day, leaving the expletive intact.

“See, the irony is that what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this [excrement] and it’s over,” Mr. Bush said.

The president and Mr. Blair voiced frustration with Mr. Annan, with Mr. Bush suggesting that the U.N. secretary-general thinks a cease-fire by itself will resolve the conflict.

“What about Kofi Annan? I don’t like the sequence of it. His attitude is basically ‘cease fire and everything else happens,’ ” Mr. Bush said.

Mr. Blair replied: “What does he think? He thinks if Lebanon turns out fine, if he gets a solution in Israel and Palestine, Iraq goes in the right way, he has done it. That’s what this whole thing’s about. It’s the same with Iran.”

But the prime minister cautioned, “The thing that is really difficult is you can’t stop this unless you get this international presence agreed,” a reference to the G-8 leaders’ call for the United Nations to consider an international security force in Lebanon.

On his six-day trip to Germany and Russia, Mr. Bush repeatedly has accused Hezbollah, a militant Shi’ite group backed by Syria and Iran and based in Lebanon, of spurring the recent violence in the Middle East. He won concessions from other leaders yesterday, when the G-8 issued a statement condemning Hezbollah and acknowledging Israel’s right to defend itself. But Mr. Bush continues to think that more pressure needs to be applied on Syrian President Bashar Assad.

“I felt like telling Kofi to get on the phone with Assad and make something happen. We’re not blaming Israel, and we’re not blaming the Lebanese government,” Mr. Bush said.

Mr. Blair cautioned Mr. Bush about Miss Rice’s expected visit to the Middle East when a U.N. team returns later this week. “If she’s going … she needs the ground prepared, as it were. See, if she goes out, she has got to succeed, as it were, whereas I can just go out and talk,” the prime minister said.

The unscripted comments were extraordinary given the highly choreographed nature of such summits, during which every movement by world leaders is broken down to the minute. The recording picked up Mr. Bush making small talk to other leaders as well. Expected to deliver remarks at the luncheon, the president said: “I’m just going to make it up. I’m not going to talk too damn long like the rest of them. Some of these guys talk too long.”

Asked about the microphone mishap during his final briefing of the summit, Mr. Blair joked that it was “all about transparent government.” He smiled and tapped the microphone in front of him.

The summit ended yesterday after world leaders unified to seek to halt the Middle East crisis, giving consideration to sending international peacekeepers to stop Hezbollah from bombing Israel.

Mr. Putin, closing the first G-8 summit in Russia, said his nation would contribute troops to a U.N. peacekeeping force. The European Union said it also was considering sending peacekeepers to Lebanon. France said it is sending Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin to Beirut to express support for Lebanon’s government. French President Jacques Chirac said that “some means of coercion” may be needed to enforce a U.N. resolution that calls for the disarmament of Hezbollah and other militias in Lebanon.

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