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Bush Concerned by Israeli Bombing of Beirut Airport


President Bush says he is concerned that the Israeli bombing of Beirut's airport could weaken the Lebanese government. Mr. Bush supports Israel's right to defend itself, and is calling on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to work for the release of kidnapped Israeli soldiers.

President Bush says the Islamic militant group Hezbollah started this latest round of violence by firing missiles into Israel and kidnapping two Israeli soldiers.

While he says Israel has the right to defend itself against such attacks, Mr. Bush expressed concern over the bombing of Beirut's airport and its impact on the government of Prime Minister Fuad Siniora.

"My biggest concern is whether or not actions taken will weaken the Siniora government," said Mr. Bush. "The democracy in Lebanon is an important part of laying a foundation of peace in the region."

President Bush says the international community has worked hard to encourage Lebanon's new democratic government and stop Syrian interference in the country.

He says the government in Damascus is part of the problem, and must take responsibility for helping to find a solution.

"Syria needs to be held to account. Syria is housing the militant wing of Hamas. Hezbollah has got an active presence in Syria. The truth of the matter is that, if we really want the situation to settle down, the soldiers need to be returned, and President Assad needs to show some leadership toward peace," concluded President Bush.

The president took questions from reporters following a meeting with the German leader. Chancellor Merkel was asked about French criticism that Israel's bombing of the airport in Beirut was a disproportionate response to the kidnapping of its soldiers.

She said it is the cross-border raids into Israel that escalated the violence.

"These incursions, such as the kidnapping of soldiers is not acceptable. And the parties to that conflict, obviously, have to use proportionate means, but I am not at all for sort of blurring the lines between the root causes and the consequences of an action," noted Merkel.

Chancellor Merkel called for the release of the Israeli soldiers and appealed to all parties to stop the violence.

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