Bush Urges Hezbollah to Disarm and Support Peace

President Bush says the United States views Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, but that the militant group can change that impression by its own actions.

Speaking with reporters at the Oval Office, President Bush urged Hezbollah to change its ways.

"We view Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, and I would hope that Hezbollah would prove that it is not by laying down arms and not threatening peace," said Mr. Bush.

Mr. Bush was asked if he would support a political role in Lebanon for the Syrian and Iranian-backed Shi'ite group. The president did not reply directly, but said Hezbollah came to be regarded as a terrorist organization, for what Mr. Bush termed terrorist activities in the past - a statement that did not seem to preclude peaceful political participation by the group in the future.

The president made clear, however, that his concerns about Hezbollah extend beyond its influence in Lebanon.

“One of our concerns that His Majesty and I discussed is that Hezbollah may try to derail the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians,” said Mr. Bush.  “And it is very important that this peace process go forward for the sake of the Palestinians, for the sake of the Israelis and for the sake of people in the region.”

Hezbollah has demonstrated its political clout in the last week, orchestrating large pro-Syrian rallies in Lebanon, amid continued international pressure for a Syrian troop withdrawal from the country. Earlier, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan repeated U.S. demands that Syria withdraw promptly and completely so that Lebanon's May elections can go forward without foreign interference or intimidation.

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