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Iraqi Prime Minister Meets with Bush, Calls for Cease-fire in Lebanon


Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is personally urging President Bush to back an immediate cease-fire between Israeli forces and Lebanese-based Hezbollah militants. But Mr. Bush continues to stand firm in his belief that only a long-term solution that addresses the root causes of the violence will work

President Bush and the Iraqi Prime Minister say they spoke frankly about the Lebanese crisis during their talks Tuesday at the White House.

When they went before reporters a short time later, their differing views were on display. Mr. Maliki said he urged the president to support an immediate ceasefire.

He spoke through a translator.

''And I also emphasized the importance of an immediate ceasefire and called on the international community to support the Lebanese government and support the Lebanese people to overcome the damage and destruction that happened," he said.

The prime minister spoke about the toll the conflict is taking on the people of Lebanon. President Bush said he understands those concerns and said the United States will do all it can to see humanitarian aid gets to those in need.

"I assure the prime minister that I care deeply about the suffering that takes place, that we understand the anguish of leaders in the region who see innocent people losing their lives," said Mr. Bush.

But Mr. Bush emphasized once again that the only solution is one that goes to the root causes of the problem and removes the threat posed by armed Hezbollah militants on Lebanese soil.

"I told him I support a sustainable cease-fire that will bring about an end to violence and I talked about the importance of strengthening the Lebanese government and supporting the Lebanese people," added Mr. Bush.

The president said he sent Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to the region to show America's determination to support the democratically elected government in Lebanon, help the Lebanese people caught in the conflict, and find a way to bring the fighting to an end that will ensure a long-term peace.

Mr. Bush was then asked about U.S. arms sales to Israel, in particular, the recent delivery of armaments that could be used to attack Hezbollah strongholds in Lebanon.

The president said he saw no contradiction between delivering the weapons, and providing humanitarian aid to Lebanese who have been hurt by the fighting. He noted the weapons deal with Israel was approved before the latest violence began.

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