U.N.: Lebanon should help restore peace
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BEIRUT, Lebanon (CNN) -- Lebanon's government should play a role to bring peace to the nation which has been crippled by violence between Israel and Hezbollah, said the chief of a United Nations delegation in Beirut on Monday.
The head of the delegation, Vijay Nambier, spoke with Lebanon's parliament speaker and prime minister, and said more diplomacy is needed to come up with a solution to the conflict, which has entered its sixth day.
Hezbollah guerrillas sparked the crisis last week when they crossed from southern Lebanon into Israel in a raid that killed three Israeli soldiers and led to the kidnapping of two others. Israel immediately responded with an offensive in Lebanon, and Hezbollah guerrillas shot rockets into Israel. (Watch buildings, cars blown to bits in Haifa -- :40)
The Lebanese government was marginalized by the Hezbollah decision to unilaterally begin this latest round in the conflict. And many fear that any Lebanese government effort to stop Hezbollah would result in the Lebanese military splintering, bringing another Lebanese Civil War. So, with these comments, the UN is apparently trying to give the Lebanese government a place at the table.
Nambier issued assurances that strides have been made to address the hostilities, where the number of dead in Lebanon and Israel is approaching 200 -- 165 in Lebanon and 24 in Israel. (Watch vehicles packed with desperate refugees flee Lebanon --1:00)
"We have made many efforts to improve the situation, and our teams have discussed these issues with the Lebanese government, and we will continue to discuss these suggestions and ideas, and we will come back to Lebanon to develop and explore these ideas further," Nambier said.
"And of course, we should spend more diplomatic work to reach a final solution, and the parties should know that the consequences of failure are great, and time is critical, and there should be creative solutions to end these crises."
On Sunday, Nambier said his first priority "is for the protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure, which must be respected by all parties. No more innocent life must be lost."
He said the United Nations supports the Lebanese government: "We support the call for a cease-fire and their aim of exercising full authority over the entire country."
He also mentioned "the release of the captives as part of a solution to this conflict."
At the United Nations, the top U.S. envoy said Monday he hopes the delegation returns this week to brief the Security Council. U.S. ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton said the briefing could come as soon as Thursday and the council could determine how to proceed after hearing the report.
Reporters asked Bolton why the United States didn't appear interested in pursuing calls for a cease-fire at this time.
"I think that the question of the legitimate exercise of self-defense, which the government of Israel is seen engaged in, is something that has to be considered very clearly," Bolton said.
"I think before you get to cease-fire you have to look at what the causes of the conflict are.
"I think you would have a cease-fire in a matter of nanoseconds if Hezbollah and Hamas would release the kidnapped victims and stop engaging in rocket attacks and other acts of terrorism against Israel."
The military wing of the Palestinian Islamic fundamentalist organization Hamas has claimed responsibility for the abduction of another Israeli soldier on June 25.
Also Monday, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and British Prime Minister Tony Blair called for an international stabilization force to go to Israel to help end the cross-border attacks between Hezbollah militants and the Israeli military.
That force would be the first step in what the two said should be a series of actions that would stop the hostilities.
"The only way we are going to get a cessation of hostilities is the deployment of an international force to stop the bombardment of Israel and get Israel to stop its attacks on Hezbollah," Blair told reporters at a news conference in St. Petersburg, Russia, at the end of the G8 summit of eight industrialized nations.
Annan said the U.N. Security Council would have to discuss the matter but said such a force would be only a part of a comprehensive plan of action to stop the fighting across the Israeli-Lebanese border.
"In addition to that, I think we need to get the parties to agree to an immediate cessation of hostilities," Annan said. "They need to do that to give diplomacy time and space to work."
President Bush on Monday used an expletive while expressing frustration at the United Nations' stance on the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict during an apparently private conversation picked up by a microphone at a press event. (Watch Bush say the "s" word while complaining about the United Nations -- 1:31)
Apparently not expecting the open microphone to pick up his remarks, Bush told Blair: "See the irony is what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this sh_t and it's over." (Full story)
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