Friday, July 28, 2006
Bush, Blair Back Multinational Force
By JENNIFER LOVEN , 07.28.2006, 01:11 PM
Bush said they envisioned a resolution providing "a framework for the cessation of hostilities on an urgent basis and mandating the multinational force."
"This is a moment of intense conflict in the Middle East," Bush said. "Yet our aim is to turn it into a moment of opportunity and a chance for broader change in the region."
Leaders Work Out Plan For End to Mideast Crisis
By Peter Baker and Peter Finn
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, July 17, 2006; Page A09
STRELNA, Russia, July 16 -- President Bush and other world leaders put aside their differences Sunday and crafted a plan to stop the fighting in the Middle East, calling on Islamic militias to halt their rocket attacks on Israel and on Israeli forces to end their military response.
The plan, hammered out after hours of intense negotiations at the Group of Eight summit, called for "an immediate end to the current violence" and raised the prospect of an international security force along the Israeli-Lebanese border to separate fighting forces, a potentially significant escalation of outside involvement in the historically volatile region
The statement by the leaders of the world's leading industrial nations placed blame for the intensifying crisis squarely on the "extremist forces" of Hamas and Hezbollah, just as Bush has done from the beginning. But it also went further than he had been willing to go in demanding that Israel "exercise utmost restraint" and "avoid casualties among innocent civilians" in its retaliatory strikes in the Gaza Strip and southern Lebanon.
The leaders demanded that Hamas and Hezbollah return unharmed Israeli soldiers they have seized in recent weeks and stop shelling Israeli towns, while telling Israel to call off its military operations, withdraw forces quickly from Gaza, and release Palestinian ministers and legislators arrested since the latest wave of conflict began last month. U.S. officials said afterward that the plan envisioned Israel taking those actions only after Hamas and Hezbollah complied, but the statement did not set an order.
The day-long talks that led to the agreement overshadowed the G-8's scheduled agenda on energy, disease and education, demonstrating the deepening alarm over the rising violence in Israel and Lebanon. "We indeed are witnesses to a veritable explosion," said French President Jacques Chirac. "This is a situation of grave, grave concern to us, which occupies us here."
The leaders arrived at Konstantinovsky Palace with starkly different views of the crisis, and a Russian official predicted talks would last all night. But just before the leaders adjourned to a 9 p.m. dinner at the czarist seaside palace near St. Petersburg, they settled on language that emphasized areas of agreement, split the difference on disputes and allowed each side to interpret it as it chose.
Bush has steadfastly supported Israel, saying it has a right to defend itself after Hamas and Hezbollah guerrillas captured some Israeli soldiers and killed others, while firing hundreds of rockets into Israel. Chirac, on the other hand, has criticized Israel for what he sees as an excessive response that has included bombing airports, roads, bridges, electricity stations and other civilian targets in Lebanon, where Hezbollah operates free of government control.
During the discussion, Bush found support from British Prime Minister Tony Blair and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, while Chirac's position was largely shared by Russan President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper rounded out the G-8 sessions.
But Bush aides said afterward that the leaders found common ground in their broad sense of the situation and did not bicker much over the differences. "There wasn't much of an argument at all, much of a discussion at all, about who is responsible," Undersecretary of State R. Nicholas Burns said. "But most of the focus was on trying to end the violence, end the fighting, restore calm."
"We achieved satisfactory compromise language that is extremely balanced," said Putin, who is chairing the summit. Putin also said Russia was working to persuade Hezbollah to release the Israelis. "We are using all channels to make efforts to free your soldiers -- all channels," he told an Israeli journalist.
Bush Curses Hezbollah During G8 Luncheon
During G8 luncheon, microphone picks up Bush using an expletive to describe Hezbollah attacks
ST. PETERSBURG, Russia, Jul. 17, 2006
By JEANNINE AVERSA AP Economics Writer (AP)
Bush expressed his frustration with the United Nations and his disgust with the militant Islamic group and its backers in Syria as he talked to British Prime Minister Tony Blair during the closing lunch at the Group of Eight summit.
"See the irony is that what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this s--- and it's over," Bush told Blair as he chewed on a buttered roll.
He told Blair he felt like telling U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who visited the gathered leaders, to get on the phone with Syrian President Bashar Assad to "make something happen." He suggested Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice might visit the region soon.
The unscripted comments came during a photo opportunity at the lunch. The leaders clearly did not realize that a live microphone was picking up their discussion.
Bush also spoke to other leaders, and his unscripted comments ranged from the serious topic of escalating violence in the Mideast to light banter about his preference for Diet Coke and a gift he received from another leader.
Blair, whose remarks were not as clearly heard, appeared to be pressing Bush about the importance of getting international peacekeepers into the region.
As he chats with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Bush expresses amazement that it will take Putin and an unidentified leader just as long to fly home to Moscow as it will take him to fly back to Washington. Putin's reply could not be heard.
"You eight hours? Me too. Russia's a big country and you're a big country. Takes him eight hours to fly home. Not Coke, diet Coke. ... Russia's big and so is China. Yo Blair, what're you doing? Are you leaving," Bush said.
Bush thanked Blair for a gift of a sweater and joked that he knew Blair had picked it out personally. "Absolutely," Blair responded, with a laugh.
Bush, a stickler for keeping to his schedule, could also be heard saying, "We have to keep this thing moving. I have to leave at 2:15. They want me out of here to free up their security forces."
Bush also remarked that some of the speakers at the meeting had the tendency to talk too long.