- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 29, 2006

President Bush said yesterday he will push for a multinational military force to help Lebanon oust Hezbollah fighters and gain control of the southern portion of that country.

Mr. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who met yesterday at the White House, said they will seek a U.N. resolution early next week setting conditions for a cease-fire with Israel and the military force, but they both said any cease-fire must come after conditions on the ground change.

Mr. Bush also said he is sending Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice back to the Middle East today to lobby Israel and Lebanon to make sure they can agree to a deal.

“[Miss Rice’s] instructions are to work with Israel and Lebanon to come up with an acceptable U.N. Security Council resolution that we can [put on the] table next week,” he said.

Mr. Bush said a multinational force would help both the military objective of regaining control of south Lebanon from Hezbollah and aid workers trying to distribute humanitarian relief.

He did not say what role the United States might play in the force, but Miss Rice, currently traveling in Malaysia, said she didn’t anticipate U.S. forces being used. Mr. Blair has ruled out using British forces, citing his nation’s former role as a colonial power in the region, the Associated Press reported.

Mr. Blair underscored just how little control outside nations have over the situation.

“This can only work if Hezbollah are prepared to allow it to work,” he said, adding that they will not ask the multinational force to fight its way into the area.

Hezbollah continued to launch rockets into Israel yesterday as Israeli forces continued their assault on Hezbollah-held areas in southern Lebanon.

European leaders have called for an immediate cease-fire, saying the most important goal is to stop the killing. But Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair stood shoulder-to-shoulder and said they will not agree to a short-term fix at the expense of a long-term solution.

“The temptation is to say, ‘It’s too tough, let’s just try to solve it quickly with something that won’t last; let’s just get it off the TV screens,’” Mr. Bush said. “But that won’t solve the problem. And it’s certainly not going to help the Lebanese citizens have a life that is normal and peaceful.”

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid’s press office used yesterday’s meeting to criticize Mr. Bush’s record on diplomacy and said the United States finds itself “more and more isolated.”

“Secretary Rice has been unable to forge an agreement on the conflict raging in Lebanon and Israel, diplomats from countries allied with the United States are openly criticizing the go-it-alone tactics of John Bolton, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and recent polls show that Americans are increasingly pessimistic about U.S. leadership in the world,” the statement said. “Nowhere is the lack of international support more glaring than in Iraq. The world is paying the price for the Bush administration’s disregard of basic diplomacy.”

Mr. Blair said the roots of today’s conflict — “ideology based upon the perversion of Islam” — stretch back in history to violence in Algeria and extend today to Chechnya, Kashmir and the Palestinian territories.

He said that ideology has even entered Muslim communities in Europe, where, he said, some people will “will half-buy into some of the propaganda that’s pushed at it.”

Mr. Blair said that’s one reason to be all the more certain about where the United States and Britain stand.

“One of the things we’ve got to stop doing is stop apologizing for our own positions. Muslims in America, as far as I’m aware of, are free to worship; Muslims in Britain are free to worship,” he said.

“It’s nonsense, the propaganda is nonsense. And we’re not going to defeat this ideology until we in the West go out with sufficient confidence in our own position and say this is wrong. It’s not just wrong in its methods, it’s wrong in its ideas, it’s wrong in its ideology, it’s wrong in every single wretched reactionary thing about it.”

Mr. Bush also apologized to Mr. Blair yesterday for the failure to notify British authorities that two U.S. aircraft were carrying laser-guided missiles bound for Israel when they refueled at a Scottish airport last weekend, the AP reported.

Mr. Blair’s spokesman said Mr. Bush apologized that proper procedures were not followed. “It was a gracious thing to do,” the spokesman said.

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