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Bush Calls for Quick Deployment of UN Force in Lebanon


President Bush is calling for the quick deployment of an international force in Lebanon. Mr. Bush is also substantially increasing U.S. aid to the Lebanese people.

The president says there is an urgent need for an effective international force in Lebanon.

"The international community must now designate the leadership of this new international force, give it robust rules of engagement and deploy it as quickly as possible to secure the peace," he said.

Mr. Bush says the United States will provide support for the force. He also promises increased U.S. aid to help train the Lebanese military, part of an enhanced assistance package that will also provide funds to rebuild homes, roads and schools.

"Today, I am announcing that America will send more aid to support humanitarian and reconstruction work in Lebanon for a total of more than $230 million," he said.

During a session with White House reporters, the president said the goal is not just to bolster the fragile cease fire between Israel and Hezbollah militants in southern Lebanon, but to strengthen Lebanon's democratic government.

"America is making a long-term commitment to helping the people of Lebanon, because we believe every person deserves to live in a free, open society that respects the rights of all," the president said.

President Bush said, in Iraq, as in Lebanon, extremists are trying to derail a young democracy. He said America's goal is to help the Iraqi people achieve a free society, and dismissed calls to withdraw U.S. troops.

"You know, it is an interesting debate we are having in America about how we ought to handle Iraq," he said. "There are a lot of people - good, decent people - saying we ought to withdraw now. They are absolutely wrong. It would be a huge mistake for this country."

The president acknowledged he is frustrated at times by events in Iraq, and admitted he is concerned about the possibility sectarian violence could evolve into a civil war.

"And I have talked to a lot of people about it. And what I have found from my talks is that the Iraqis want a unified country, and the Iraqi leadership is determined to thwart the efforts of the extremists and the radicals," President Bush said.

Several times during his news conference, Mr. Bush referred to Iran's support for militants in the region and the threat posed by Tehran's nuclear ambitions. He said Iran poses a challenge that can be best addressed when the international community speaks with one voice.

The president was then asked if there is the will to impose U.N. sanctions, should Tehran defy demands to suspend uranium enrichment.

"In order for the UN to be effective, there have to be consequences if people thumb their nose at the Security Council. And we will work with people on the Security Council to achieve that objective," he said.

President Bush also spoke about North Korea's nuclear program, and international efforts to stop Pyongyang from creating a nuclear arsenal. He said he had discussed the matter just a few hours earlier with Chinese President Hu Jintao - a discussion that focused on getting North Korea back to the six-party talks hosted by Beijing.

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