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Bush Impressed by Lebanese Reconciliation Talks

U.S. President George Bush says he is impressed by efforts by Lebanese President Michel Suleiman to reconcile the country's rival factions. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, the two men met in the Oval Office Thursday.

President Bush welcomed the Lebanese president, saying he has watched carefully the new leader's efforts to resolve many of Lebanon's divisions.

"We are most impressed by the national dialogue that you are holding in an attempt to seek reconciliation," said President Bush. "The United States is proud to stand by your side. Our mission is your mission: a country that is strong and capable and a country where people can live in peace."

President Suleiman took office as part of a compromise after the militant group Hezbollah blocked the election of a politician with a tougher stance against Syrian influence in Lebanon.

President Suleiman is working to resolve the political divide between Lebanon's ruling coalition government and Hezbollah. The United States considers Hezbollah a terrorist organization. Washington backs the head of the ruling coalition, Saad Hariri.

Speaking to reporters before their talks, President Suleiman said the government in Beirut is proud of the million Lebanese Americans who work sincerely for both the United States and their original homeland.

President Suleiman thanked President Bush for America's support for the Lebanese government and military. He said Lebanon shares the values of democracy, liberty, and human rights and is working against bigotry and terrorism.

President Suleiman said Lebanese value the diversity of their country but believe the future of Palestinian refugees is in their own homeland, not in Lebanon. He said that is in the interest of both the Palestinian and Lebanese people.

President Suleiman and President Bush were expected to discuss peace talks between Syria and Israel as well as efforts to expand the Lebanese army.