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Chirac: Israeli Strikes in Lebanon Disproportionate


French President Jacques Chirac says it appears Israel is trying to deliberately destroy Lebanon's infrastructure on the second day of strikes on the region. The European Union is sending its foreign policy chief to the region to try and diffuse the crisis.

In a Bastille Day interview, President Jacques Chirac joined European Union condemnation of the Israeli strikes against Lebanon as disproportionate. He also condemned Hamas and the Iranian-backed militant Shiite group Hezbollah for what he call's irresponsible and unacceptable behavior. The two groups have captured several Israeli soldiers, prompting the Israeli strikes on Lebanon and Palestinian territories. A wave of Hezbollah rockets have also struck Israel.

But Mr. Chirac suggested Israel's strikes against Lebanon appeared to be deliberately aimed at destroying that country's infrastructure.

"The Israeli strikes targeted Lebanon's equipment, its roads, its communications, its energy sector and its airport. Why?" Mr. Chirac asked.

The European Union is sending its foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, to the region to try to diffuse the situation. Mr. Chirac also said he had spoken with U.N. Secretary- General Kofi Annan Thursday about sending a U.N. mission to the Middle East to calm the situation. He suggested the U.N. should establish a security zone on the Israeli-Lebanese border.

The French leader refused to directly point the finger at Iran for trying to inflame the crisis. Iran has influence over Hezbollah. But some speculate Tehran may be meddling in the situation to divert attention from its nuclear standoff with the West. Mr. Chirac did appear to indirectly criticize Tehran.

"I don't want to offer a definitive judgment," said Mr. Chirac. "But I have the sentiment, if not the conviction, that the Hamas, the Hezbollah could not have taken these initiatives completely alone. And therefore, that there is support somewhere from this or that nation."

He drew parallels with the current crisis in the Middle East and a similar crisis over Iraq in the months before the war.