Friday, July 14, 2006

Bush defends Israel, EU, Russia condemn attacks

RUSSIA and the European Union condemned Israel's strikes in Lebanon as a dangerous escalation of the Middle East conflict but the United States said Israel had the right to self defence.



US President George W. Bush spoke up for Israel's attack on Beirut airport, but warned the Israelis they should be careful not to weaken the fragile Lebanese Government.

"Israel has the right to defend herself," Mr Bush said after talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. His comments contrasted with comments from Russia and the European Union, which said there could be no justification for Israel's air and sea blockade on Lebanon.

"Actions, which are contrary to international humanitarian law, can only aggravate the vicious circle of violence and retribution," the EU presidency said in a statement. The comments came as a three-strong United Nations team headed to the Middle East to seek to defuse the crisis.

Mr Bush and Ms Merkel made clear at a joint news conference they felt Israel's actions in seeking kidnapped soldiers and responding to Hezbollah rocket attacks were justified.

But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov denounced both Israel's attack on Lebanon and its operations against the Palestinian territories.

"This is a disproportionate response to what has happened and if both sides are going to drive each other into a tight corner then I think that all this will develop in a very dramatic and tragic way," he said.

Israel struck three airports including Beirut's and began enforcing a naval blockade of Lebanon, intensifying reprisals after Hezbollah seized two Israeli soldiers and killed eight in cross-border attacks yesterday. The Israeli attacks have killed 52 Lebanese civilians.

French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy called Israel's bombardment of Beirut airport "a disproportionate act of war", saying there was a real risk of a regional war.

Mr Douste-Blazy also condemned Hezbollah's firing of rockets into northern Israel and the seizure of the soldiers, telling Europe 1 radio these were "irresponsible acts".

"The only solution is a return to reason by both sides," he said. "We are calling for a lowering of tensions."

Hezbollah fired barrages of rockets into towns across northern Israel, killing one civilian and wounding 29 others in their heaviest bombardment in a decade. The violence is the worst between Israel and Lebanon since 1996 when Israeli troops still occupied part of the south.

Mr Bush said there was concern that any activities by Israel to protect herself would weaken the Lebanese Government.

Source

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