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Rome Conference Fails to Agree on Plan to End Israel-Lebanon Violence


Crisis talks on Lebanon have been held at a conference on the Middle East in Rome, but no agreement was reached on an immediate ceasefire. The meeting was co-chaired by Italy and the United States.

Delegates at the Rome meeting agreed on the need to work immediately to reach a ceasefire that puts an end to the current violence in Lebanon. But they failed to work out the details.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had made clear that no lasting peace could be reached in the area until the right conditions are in place.

"We are all agreed that we want most urgently to end the violence on a basis that this time will be sustainable because unfortunately this is a region that has had too many broken ceasefires, too many spasms of violence," said Ms. Rice.

Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said Israeli artillery has been pounding his country for the past 15 days. Scores of people are dying every day, he added, and Lebanon is on its knees. He said delaying a ceasefire posed dangers.

"The more we delay the cease-fire, the more we are going to witness more are being killed, more destruction and more aggression against the civilians in Lebanon," he said.

Ministers from 15 countries attended the meeting. But neither Israel not Hezbollah and its allies Syria and Iran were invited to take part. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan spoke of the importance to reach a regional solution, involving all the players.

"It is important that we work with the countries of the region to find a solution that should also include Iran and Syria," said Mr. Annan.

Participants at the meeting agreed on the need for an international force in Lebanon under a U.N. mandate that has a strong and robust capability to help bring about peace.

And the U.N. secretary-general appealed for nations to come forward with commitments to contribute troops.

Delegates also agreed on humanitarian aid for Lebanon and on holding a donors' conference.