Monday, July 24, 2006
The latest in the Middle East crisis
From The Morning Grind

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice touched down in Beirut today to meet with Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, as Israeli Defense Forces continued to exchange fire with Hezbollah fighters in southern Lebanon. Following her meeting, Rice will head to Israel for meetings with Israeli officials. Rice's stop in Lebanon was not announced for security reasons. She is in the region to assess the humanitarian situation, paving the way for increased relief aid and to discuss ways to end the crisis, a senior U.S. State Department official said.

The official said it was Rice's idea to stop in Beirut, despite the security risks, to show the Lebanese people "we are here, we are concerned."

"The fact that we are going to go right into Beirut after all that has happened is a dramatic signal to Lebanon and this government," the official said.

Rice's visit follows trips by European and United Nations' diplomats to the region who supported Lebanon's calls for a cease-fire. The United States has not called for an immediate end to the fighting, arguing that leaving Hezbollah in place on Israel's northern border would only make further conflict inevitable.

Rice said she has been consulting with U.N. and Israeli officials about elements of a cease-fire that would ensure Lebanon controls its country.
Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/24/2006 11:03:00 AM ET | Permalink
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