July 25, 2006

In News

By News Agencies

Sir Peter Tapsell, a Tory MP, said Tuesday that British Prime Minister Tony Blair was “colluding” with U.S. President George W. Bush in giving Israel the okay to wage “unlimited war” in Lebanon – a war crime he claimed was “gravely reminiscent of the Nazi atrocity on the Jewish quarter of Warsaw.”

The European Union will push for a cease-fire in Lebanon followed by the deployment of a multinational force whose goal would be to help disarm Hezbollah militants, officials said Tuesday.

Javier Solana, the EU foreign and security affairs chief, will propose at a conference of foreign ministers in Rome on Wednesday the establishment of a rapid reaction force ideally built around French, German and Spanish troop, supplemented by forces from Turkey, the Netherlands, Canada and Arab states such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, officials told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Before leaving for Rome, Solana said an international force for Lebanon should represent a broad sweep of nations to generate the widest possible public support in the Middle East and have a robust United Nations mandate to use force, if necessary.

He gave no details of timing or duration of any peacekeeping mission.

The Middle East meeting in Rome brings together 18 nations and international organizations seeking ways to end the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah militants based in southern Lebanon.

Diplomats said the Rome participants would assess the international community’s appetite for what promises to be a complicated military undertaking: helping the Beirut government disarm Hezbollah fighters with international soldiers who would have a much tougher mandate to use force than UNIFIL, the United Nations current force, which has been ineffective in keeping southern Lebanon free of anti-Israel militants.

Getting Israel and Hezbollah to cease fire is the key challenge facing the international community.

Israel, backed by the United States, opposes the push for an immediate cease-fire, arguing that any truce must come only after steps have been taken to ensure that Hezbollah is no longer an immediate threat to Israel.

On Wednesday, officials also will discuss the humanitarian needs of some 700,000 Lebanese people displaced by Israel’s offensive.

Solana said an international force for Lebanon must have appeal for the people of the Middle East and show them that a broad international alliance wants to rid Lebanon of its lawlessness.

“We have to be very careful with the perceptions of people,” said Solana. “We have to give them the feeling we are on their side and are helping the Lebanese government.”

That would exclude a role for NATO – widely seen in the Middle East as an American tool – or the participation of troops from Britain or the United States, two countries deeply embroiled in Iraq. This week, Israel said it would welcome a NATO role in
resolving the crisis.

Turkey’s presence in any force is meant to deflect the perception that foreign troops are being sent in solely to defend Israel’s interests against Hezbollah.