Bush slams Syria, Iran over Hezbollah
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush on Saturday slammed Syrian and Iranian support for Hezbollah and underscored U.S. support for the Israeli reaction to the provocations by the Shiite guerrillas in Lebanon.
"For many years, Syria has been a primary sponsor of Hezbollah and it has helped provide Hezbollah with shipments of Iranian-made weapons," Bush said in his weekly radio address on Saturday.
"Iran's regime has also repeatedly defied the international community with its ambition for nuclear weapons and aid to terrorist groups. Their actions threaten the entire Middle East and stand in the way of resolving the current crisis and bringing lasting peace to this troubled region."
Bush reiterated that Hezbollah started the crisis on July 12 when "the terrorist group Hezbollah" launched its raid into Israel that led to the kidnapping of two soldiers. Israel than began its offensive and Hezbollah rocketed Israeli targets.
"I believe sovereign nations have the right to defend their people from terrorist attack, and to take the necessary action to prevent those attacks," Bush said, also emphasizing that "we have called on Israel to continue to exercise the greatest possible care to protect innocent lives."
Bush said the United States is concerned over how the warfare will affect Lebanon's "young democracy" and he hopes Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will make strides in her diplomatic efforts next week in her trip to the Middle East and Europe.
"This is a difficult and trying time for the people of Lebanon. Hezbollah's practice of hiding rockets in civilian neighborhoods, and its efforts to undermine the democratically elected government have shown it to be no friend of Lebanon.
"By its actions, Hezbollah has jeopardized Lebanon's tremendous advances and betrayed the Lebanese people."
Rice said Friday that a quick cease-fire "will be a false promise if it returns us to the status quo." She added that Hezbollah is the source of the problem in Lebanon and must be disarmed.
"We must work urgently to create the conditions for stability and lasting peace," Rice said.
Rice will visit Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Israel and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank. She will also attend a meeting in Rome, Italy, of Lebanese diplomats.
"It is important to remember that the cause of the current violence was Hezbollah's illegal attack from Lebanese territory," she said.
"It is unacceptable to have a situation where the decision of a terrorist group can drag an entire country, even an entire region, into violence."
Rice said Arab nations, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan, had been critical of Hezbollah's "provocation."
"What we're seeing here, in a sense, is the growing -- the birth pangs of a new Middle East. And whatever we do, we have to be certain that we are pushing forward to the new Middle East, not going back to the old one."
A framework accompanied by "some kind of international assistance, perhaps significant international assistance" must be created to "push forward" the sovereignty of the Lebanese government and the deployment of Lebanese forces in the south, she said.
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