- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will meet with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan in New York tonight about efforts to end the conflict in Lebanon, while the Bush administration remains firmly opposed to efforts to impose a cease-fire on Israel.

Miss Rice will dine with Mr. Annan, and the two will be joined by European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana at a briefing tomorrow from a high-level U.N. fact-finding team just returning from the region, according to State Department spokesman Sean McCormack.

Resisting calls for an immediate cease-fire from Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora and a number of European and Middle Eastern leaders, the U.S. government said any agreement had to deal with the “root causes” of the fighting: Hezbollah’s attacks on Israel and the political and material support the guerrillas receive from Syria and Iran.

“Everybody wants to see an end to violence. We want to see an end to violence,” Mr. McCormack said. “But we don’t want a repeat where you have the kind of cease-fire where Hezbollah is allowed to regroup, re-arm, strengthen, only to pose an even greater threat to the stability of the region.”

The White House and State Department denied press reports that Washington has given Israel a “green light” for at least another week to deal with the threat from Hezbollah rockets and forces stationed near the border with Israel in southern Lebanon.

“We’re not colluding, we’re not cooperating, we’re not conspiring, we’re not doing any of that,” White House spokesman Tony Snow told reporters. “The Israelis are doing what they think is necessary to protect their borders.”

Miss Rice, who spoke by phone with King Abdullah II of Jordan yesterday, has pledged to travel to the Mideast to help end the crisis, but has not yet said when she will make the trip or where she will go. She is scheduled to begin a five-nation Asian trip starting Sunday.

Miss Rice will make the Middle East trip “when she believes that it is useful to actually achieving a way forward for a durable solution,” Mr. McCormack said.

With Lebanese civilian casualties mounting daily, U.N. officials and a number of U.S. allies are pressing for an unconditional cease-fire, with political questions to be hashed out later.

“What there needs to be now is a cessation of hostilities,” U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown said in New York. “The Middle East is littered with the results of people who believe there are military solutions to political problems in the region.”

The EU has also called for an immediate cease-fire and criticized Israel’s “disproportionate use of force” in the fighting.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told a Moscow radio interviewer that U.S. and Israeli efforts to blame Syria and Iran for the fighting were counterproductive.

“If we start to think in terms of who is guilty as some other states do, directly accusing particular countries and leaders, this will only inflame passions still further,” Mr. Lavrov said.

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