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Bush: Rice Pushing UN Force for Lebanon


U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is back in the Middle East Sunday, with plans for a United Nations force to separate Israeli troops and Hezbollah militants fighting in southern Lebanon.

President Bush says Secretary Rice's goal is to work with the leaders of Israel and Lebanon on plans to be introduced at the United Nations next week for a multinational force along the border.

"We will work with our allies to adopt a resolution that establishes a framework to end the violence quickly, and mandates the multinational force," said Mr. Bush. "This approach will demonstrate the international community's determination to support the government of Lebanon, and defeat the threat from Hezbollah and its foreign sponsors."

President Bush says Iran must stop giving money and weapons to terrorists groups, such as Hezbollah, and Syria must end its support for terrorism and respect Lebanese sovereignty.

Hezbollah militants used strongholds in southern Lebanon to launch cross-border raids and shell positions inside Israel.

During Friday talks at the White House with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, President Bush said they agreed a U.N. force will help Lebanon's democratic government take full control over all its territory.

"Militias in Lebanon must be disarmed, the flow of illegal arms must be halted, and the Lebanese security services should deploy throughout the country," added Mr. Bush.

The president is opposing calls from some European and Arab allies for an immediate cease-fire between Israel and Hezbollah, saying the region is littered with agreements that only led to more violence.

He said this painful and tragic moment of conflict in the Middle East is an opportunity for broader change.

Mr. Bush again invoked the worst terrorist attack in American history as evidence of the need to promote democratic change and fight terrorism.

"The experience of September the 11th made it clear that we could no longer tolerate the status quo in the Middle East," he added. "We saw that, when an entire region simmers in violence, that violence will eventually reach our shores and spread across the entire world. The only way to secure our nation is to change the course of the Middle East, by fighting the ideology of terror and spreading the hope of freedom."

In the Democratic radio address, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson criticized what he says was insufficient U.S. diplomatic involvement in the area before the crisis.

"If we would have had a permanent Middle East envoy in the region, we would have been in a better position to disarm Hezbollah and protect Israel, and implement a concurrent cease-fire along with a legitimate, international peacekeeping force on the ground," said Mr. Richardson.

Richardson says fighting in southern Lebanon, violence in Iraq, high oil prices and nuclear standoffs with North Korea and Iran are evidence of what he says is a world on the verge of spinning out of control.

Richardson was a U.N. ambassador and energy secretary for President Bill Clinton. He is running for re-election as New Mexico governor in November, and is regularly mentioned as a possible Democratic presidential candidate in 2008.