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Transcript of Rome news conference


Was Condoleezza Rice right in Rome to hold firm that just a cessation of hostilities is not good enough and Hezbollah must disarm?
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Rome (Italy)
United Nations

ROME, Italy (CNN) -- Key Middle East players and top diplomats meeting in Rome failed to reach agreement on a plan to end the 15-day-old conflict between Israel and Hezbollah militants.

They held a news conference on their progress Wednesday.

At issue, say diplomatic sources, is the cease-fire proposal. Most countries involved in the talks want an immediate cease-fire, while the U.S. contends a simple cessation of hostilities is not enough, the sources said.

Lebanese civilians have borne the brunt of casualties with at least 398 people killed and nearly 1,500 wounded since July 12, officials with the Lebanese security forces said Wednesday.

The Israel Defense Forces says Hezbollah rockets and fighting are to blame for the deaths of 19 Israeli ivilians and 22 soldiers, and more than 300 civilians and more than 60 soldiers have been wounded.

Below is the text of what was said at the news conference. Participants were Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.

ITALIAN FOREIGN MINISTER D'ALEMA: An international force in Lebanon should urgently be authorized under a U.N. mandate to support the Lebanese armed forces in providing a secure environment.

The Rome conference pledged its support for Lebanon's revival and reconstruction. The participants today agreed to the convening of an international donor conference to assist with the revival of Lebanon's economy and called for the provision of reconstruction assistance to the Lebanese government with special attention on the southern part of the country.

In addition, the need for a meeting of partner countries to discuss a joint approach to security assistance for the Lebanese armor forces and security services was widely supported.

Participants, finally, agreed that any lasting solution to Middle East tensions must be regional. They expressed their full commitment to the people of Lebanon, Israel and throughout the region to act immediately with international community toward the goal of a comprehensive and sustainable peace.

The document -- the statement will be distributed at the end of the conference.

I give the floor to Kofi Annan.

U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL ANNAN: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.

I think the foreign minister has indicated that nature of the discussions through the chairman's summary. And I think it is important that as we leave this meeting we continue the urgent effort to help bring peace and stability to that region.

It is important that we get a political framework that will buttress whatever understanding that we reach eventually through the Security Council and through discussions with countries involved.

It is important that we work with the countries of the region to find a solution and that should also include Iran and Syria.

It is important that we get early and quick contributions for the international force that may eventually be sent to the region to help stabilize southern Lebanon, to allow the government of Lebanon time and space to prepare its own troops and be able to extend its authority throughout the country, and to bring under the governmental authority all the weapons and guns in the country. As is said in a location not too far away, one gun, one authority.

And I would hope that as we move forward, not only would we agree on the political settlement, we will take immediate action to assist on the humanitarian front.

And some of you know, I have asked the council to consider urgent action on cessation of hostilities. And this group has also endorsed the need for urgent action to stop the hostilities, so that we can move into the longer-term mold and be able to deploy troops.

I think we will pause here and maybe give the floor to my other participants.

U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE RICE: Thank you very much.

And, first, thanks to the government of Italy for arranging this conference -- to you, Foreign Minister D'Alema, and to Prime Minister (Romano) Prodi, who joined us earlier.

I think that it goes without saying that this extraordinary gathering of the international community shows our deep concern about the situation in Lebanon, in northern Israel, in the region.

We heard a very impassioned appeal from the prime minister of Lebanon, who I think put a human face for all of us on the suffering of his people.

And I would just like to say, Prime Minister, we thank you for your steadfast leadership in these difficult days for Lebanon.

It is also the case that we talked about how to move forward, and not just to talk about it, but, indeed, to take action to move forward. We are all agreed that we want most urgently to end the violence on a basis that this time will be sustainable. Because, unfortunately, this is a region that has had too many broken cease- fires, too many spasms of violence followed then by other spasms of violence.

And we do have a way forward. We know that the international community made a pledge to the people of Lebanon when we passed Resolution 1559 that we would help Lebanon -- the government of Lebanon -- to establish its authority fully within its country as a sovereign state without the interference of its neighbors and as a state that could fully exercise its control throughout its territory and that would have complete control over any means of violence.

In other words, that there would not be militias, but rather one authority and one gun. We recommitted today to that pledge to the Lebanese people.

We are also making urgent efforts to deal with the humanitarian situation in Lebanon and we will continue to work with the United Nations and with all to alleviate the suffering of the Lebanese people.

Let me say in closing that there is much work to do, and everyone has a role to play. We are all committed to dedicated and urgent action to try and bring about an end to this violence that, indeed, would be sustainable and that would leave the Lebanese government with the prospect of full control of its country.

This is very important. We cannot -- and I heard it many, many times during this conference -- we cannot return to the status quo ante.

In that regard, I am glad that the secretary-general is going to use his good offices in whatever way that he can to try and gain an understanding from other states that they have responsibilities too.

Syria has responsibilities under 1559, which it, in fact, has not exercised, and we ask that they do. And we are also deeply concerned, as we have said, about the role of Iran. So it is indeed high time that everyone make a choice.

We can have, and the people of Lebanon deserve, a stable, democratic, fully sovereign Lebanon at peace with itself and at peace with its neighbors.

Thank you.

LEBANESE PRIME MINISTER SINIORA: Well, thank you very much. I'd like to start -- expressing my gratitude and thanks on my behalf and in behalf of the Lebanese [people] for [Italian] Prime Minister Prodi, for arranging to have this meeting to be convened here in Rome. Thanks for Minister D'Alema and Secretary Rice and Mr. Kofi Annan, secretary-general of the United Nations, for giving assistance for such a meeting to be held.

I'd like to express our thanks, as well, for everyone who really participated in this important conference.

We came in here to present our case in Lebanon.

For the past 15 days, we are being pounded every day, and scores of people are dying every day and scores are really being injured, and the country is being cut to pieces so that really to bring the country to its knees. And that's what's happening.

That was an opportunity to present our case to all of those who are in the conference and really wanted to express our demands that for so many years part of our country is still occupied, which is represented by the Shebaa Farms, which still occupied by Israel.

And there are other things that -- there are some of the detainees that are being still held in Israeli prisons. And Israel, up till now, is denying to give Lebanon the maps for the land mines that it has planted during the time when it was occupying that part of Lebanon.

Israel, for the past 10 days, has been making this aggression against Lebanon. And I'd like to remind you, this is the seventh -- during 30 years, the seventh --aggression and the seventh occupation that Israel is exercising against Lebanon.

We really wanted, on the one hand, to really ask the participants to provide humanitarian relief assistance, which is important, and to provide all other assistance -- that is in this respect. But more, we wanted a cease-fire, an immediate cease-fire.

I think this matter was discussed quite amply in the discussion. We made some progress in terms of really handling all the issues but that was our expectations.

I think there is a lot to be done in the coming period. That we have to work together in order to arrive at a cease-fire that can really protect Lebanon, that can really arrange for Lebanon to get back its territory, and that would allow the Lebanese government to prevail all over Lebanon, and whereby no weapons in Lebanon outside the legitimate authority in Lebanon, and ultimately that it will be bound by the armistice agreement that was made in 1949 and which is really mentioned in the Taif agreement.

These are things that Lebanon hoped to achieve.

I think, as I said, we have already made some progress, which is thanks to everybody and everyone who has participated in this conference.

And I think from there we have to move to reduce the sufferings of the Lebanese. As I said, the more we delay the cease-fire, the more we are going to witness more are being killed, more destruction, and more aggression against the civilians in Lebanon. This is the thing that I believe we have all to work together, with the support of the United Nations, in order to get to that thing as soon as possible.

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