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President Bush Stresses a Lasting Cease-Fire in Mideast


U.S. President George W. Bush is again calling for a sustainable ceasefire in the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah militants in Lebanon. This, after Israel carried out limited air strikes against suspected Hezbollah positions in Lebanon Monday.

President George W. Bush continues to resist growing international calls for a ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah militants. Mr. Bush says he is looking to the United Nations to act to establish a sustainable peace.

"Lebanon's democratic government must be empowered to exercise sole authority over its territory. A multinational force must be dispatched to Lebanon quickly so we can help speed the delivery of humanitarian aid to the Lebanese people. Iran must end its financial support and supply of weapons to terrorist groups like Hezbollah. Syria must end its support for terror and respect the sovereignty of Lebanon," said the president.

Israel said it was suspending air strikes for two days after a missile attack Sunday killed nearly 60 Lebanese civilians in the village of Qana.

But Israeli jets hit parts of Lebanon again Monday. Israeli officials say the airstrikes supported ground troops battling Hezbollah guerillas. They say air support was called in after an anti-tank missile wounded several Israeli soldiers. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert warned that airstrikes would be carried out against Hezbollah during the two-day suspension if necessary, and that there will be no cease-fire in the coming days.

After more than a week meeting with international leaders about the conflict, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she believes a ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah can be reached this week.

"I take with me an emerging consensus on what is necessary for both an urgent ceasefire and a lasting settlement,” said Ms. Rice before departing back to Washington. “I am convinced we can achieve both this week. And I am convinced that only by achieving both will the Lebanese people finally be able to control their country and their future. And the people of Israel finally be able to live free from the threat of attack from terrorist groups in Lebanon."

In the capital of Lebanon, Beirut, Hezbollah legislator Hassan Fadlallah says the militant group's priority is stopping what he calls "Israeli aggression." "We can then discuss other political issues. There are some Lebanese issues related to Lebanon's sovereignty that should be discussed among the Lebanese people. Israel cannot dictate any condition. Any Israeli political condition will be rejected, as well as any other American condition."

The fighting has raged since July 12th, when Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers. The top United Nations humanitarian coordinator in Lebanon says hundreds of people have died and more than 3,000 have been wounded.

A spokesperson for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees says thousands more are displaced. "Here in Lebanon we think there is about 700 to 800 thousand people displaced. Many of them moved to the north, said Astrid Van Genderen Stort.

Relief workers from the French humanitarian group Premier Urgence are rushing badly needed food and medicine to civilians in southern Lebanon, where supplies are dwindling. Francois du Patier said, "We are trying to do as much as we can for all the villages going south near the border, and trying to give some medical help."

Workers from the international aid organization Mercy Corps also distributed rations to displaced Lebanese families.