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Rice Calls for Israeli Restraint


U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is calling on Israel to exercise restraint in its ongoing military offensive to free kidnapped Israeli soldiers. She says Syria and Iran must stop backing terrorists.

Secretary Rice would not comment specifically on the Israeli bombing of Beirut's airport, repeating the Bush Administration stance that Israel has the right to defend itself against missile strikes launched from Lebanese territory.

But as Israel exercises that right of self defense, Rice says it is important that Israeli leaders exercise restraint and avoid civilian casualties.

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Rice says the Bush Administration understands that Israel is launching attacks so far inside Lebanon to prevent those who kidnapped two Israeli soldiers from moving them beyond Israel's reach.

Speaking to reporters traveling with President Bush in Germany, Rice said some countries, including Egypt, have been playing a very positive role in working to resolve the crisis by bringing parties together.

She says there is no doubt that others, namely Syria and Iran, are encouraging those responsible for the kidnappings and missile attacks on Israeli territory. "We have to remember that both the external leadership of Hamas and a number of the Hezbollah activities are carried out from the territory of Syria, and Syria needs to act responsibly and stop the use of its territory for these kinds of activities and it needs to bring all pressure on those that it is harboring to stop this and to return these soldiers and to allow this situation to deescalate," he said.

Following talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, President Bush expressed concerns about how Israeli attacks inside Lebanon will affect the stability of the democratically-elected government in Beirut.

National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley says Israeli authorities understand the risks facing Prime Minister Faud Siniora. "We have had a number of comments and conversations about the need to try and shore-up and not destabilize the Siniora government in Lebanon. This is a good government that is trying to bring greater democracy and freedom to Lebanon. It has a lot of challenges. This is one more challenge that they do not need," he said.

Rice says the best opportunity now to deescalate the crisis is through a three-member United Nations delegation heading to the region.

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