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Bush, Blair, Chirac Discuss Middle East Violence


President Bush has called for restraint in Israel's ongoing military campaign against Lebanon. Mr. Bush discussed that violence with British Prime Minister Tony Blair and French President Jacques Chirac ahead of the start of a summit of the Group of Eight industrialized nations in Russia.

President Bush says current hostilities show there is no lasting solution to Middle East violence without addressing its cause.

"It helps clarify a root cause of instability in the Middle East and that is Hezbollah and Hezbollah's relationship with Syria and Hezbollah's relationship to Iran and Syria's relationship to Iran," Mr. Bush says.

President Bush again backed Israel's right to defend itself, but as it does so, he says, Israeli leaders should be mindful of the consequences.

"All sovereign nations have the right to defend themselves against terrorist attacks. However, we hope that there is restraint as people respond. And one of our concerns, of course, is the fragile democracy in Lebanon," Mr. Bush says.

The president would not respond to a question about whether he will support calls for a cease-fire. But White House spokesman Tony Snow had said earlier Mr. Bush is not going to make military decisions for Israel.

Lebanon is accusing the United States of blocking a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for a cease-fire between Israel and Hezbollah.

President Bush called on Syria to end its support for Hezbollah militants responsible for launching rockets into northern Israel and kidnapping two Israeli soldiers.

Speaking to reporters following his meeting with President Bush, Prime Minister Blair said extremists backed by Iran and Syria want to disrupt Lebanese democracy by creating tension and hostility.

"We all want the situation to calm down and want it to calm down because we are mindful of the need to protect Lebanon's democracy," Mr. Blair says. "And we are also deeply mindful of the need to try and reengage people with the negotiating process toward a two-state solution: Israel and an independent, viable state in Palestine.

Following a separate meeting with President Bush, President Chirac called for moderation by all parties involved so as to establish the conditions for a sustainable cease-fire. Speaking through an interpreter, he, too, expressed concern about how the violence affects the stability of Lebanon.

"We must stop all those who at present are engaged in jeopardizing the security, the stability and the sovereignty of Lebanon," Mr. Chirac says.

Presidents Bush and Chirac, and Prime Minister Blair join other world leaders at a G-8 summit now sure to be dominated by talk of Middle East violence.

Summit host Russian President Vladimir Putin has questioned the proportionality of Israeli air strikes in response to missile attacks and kidnappings.

He told reporters he has the impression Israel's aims go beyond the return of its kidnapped soldiers, and those aims, he says, can be resolved peacefully.

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