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Bush: 'Israel Has Right to Defend Itself'


President George Bush and Germany's Chancellor, Angela Merkel, called Thursday, for an end to the rising tide of Mideast violence, the release of captured Israeli soldiers and a halt in rocket attacks against Israel.

Mr. Bush denounced Hezbollah guerrillas who triggered the latest round of clashes in Lebanon as "terrorists who want to stop the advance of peace," and he emphasized that Israel has the right to defend itself.

Mr. Bush also cautioned Israel not to destabilize the Lebanese government, however, and he noted that Syria, Lebanon's neighbor and a major backer of the Hezbollah group, "needs to be held to account" for its role in the current crisis.

The president and the German chancellor appeared at a joint news conference following talks Thursday on Germany's Baltic seacoast - all scheduled long before this week's escalation of Mideast violence.

The president leaves Germany on Friday for Russia, where he will meet with President Vladimir Putin before the Group of Eight summit, which begins in St. Petersburg on Saturday.

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