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Blair Calls for Foreign Troops Along Lebanese Border


British Prime Minister Tony Blair says an international force is needed to end Israeli and Hezbollah attacks across the Lebanese border.The prime minister met with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the sidelines of the Group of Eight summit in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Prime Minister Tony Blair says the situation in the Middle East is obviously critical. And while he thanked fellow Group of Eight leaders for calling for an end to hostilities across the Lebanese border, Mr. Blair said Monday that will only happen with the deployment of foreign troops.

"It isn't going to stop now unless we create the conditions in which there can be such a cessation," he said. "And for that to happen in the north, as between Lebanon and Israel, the only way in my view that we are going to get a cessation of hostilities is if we have the deployment of an international force into that area that can stop the bombardment coming over into Israel and therefore gives Israel the reason to stop its attacks on Hezbollah."

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan says he will discuss the need for a stabilization force in the area with other world leaders at the G8 summit.

"I hope once that is put together, the parties will accept cessation of hostilities, as I said, to give diplomacy time for the (U.N. Security) Council to act," Annan said.

The secretary-general appealed to all parties to bear in mind their obligations under international humanitarian law to spare civilian lives and civilian infrastructure.

G8 leaders are calling on Lebanon's Hezbollah militant group to free Israeli soldiers kidnapped last week and to stop launching rockets into Israel. Their statement calls for the end of Israeli military operations, an early withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza and the release of detained Palestinian ministers and members of parliament.

They did not call for an immediate ceasefire but instead asked Israel to exercise utmost restraint by avoiding casualties among civilians and any acts that would destabilize the Lebanese government.

The leaders of the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations are holding their annual summit in St. Petersburg. The summit agenda, normally taken up by economic and political issues, has been dominated by concerns over escalating fighting in the Middle East.

Earlier Monday, President Bush said he is glad the G8 leaders had issued a statement on the crisis and called it an important step toward addressing the roots of the crisis.

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