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US Muslim Group Says Survey Shows Americans Back Cease-Fire in Lebanon

A U.S.-based Muslim group says a recent survey it sponsored shows the Bush administration is out of step with U.S. citizens on the issue of an immediate cease-fire to end fighting between Israel and Hezbollah forces in Lebanon.

The Washington-Based Council on American-Islamic Relations says a public opinion poll the group commissioned shows at least 53 percent of those surveyed support an immediate cease-fire in the conflict.

Differences between the United States and France have slowed progress on a U.N. resolution to end the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah forces. France insists on an immediate cease-fire, while the United States wants international peacekeeping troops in place first.

The survey - conducted by an independent Pennsylvania research firm - also shows that more 63 percent of those surveyed favor U.S. neutrality or disengagement from the Middle East conflict.

Council Executive Director Nihad Awad said the results show that by not supporting an immediate cease-fire, the U.S. is doing further damage to its image in the Muslim world.

"The reluctance of the president and that of Condoleezza Rice and the majority of members of Congress is damaging to our credibility as a nation and our message of peace and democracy that we try to put in the Arab world and in the Muslim world," said Awad.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said the Bush administration is working with other nations towards an urgent end to violence in Lebanon. But she says that most importantly, they want to address the root causes of the violence and work for a more lasting peace.

"A cease-fire would be a false promise if it simply returns us to the status quo, allowing terrorists to launch attacks at the time and terms of their choosing and to threaten innocent people - Arab and Israeli -throughout the region," said Rice.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations says the U.S. hesitation to call for a cease-fire amounted to a green light for Israel to launch indiscriminate attacks on Lebanon. Council spokesman Ibrahim Hooper does agree with the secretary of state that the underlying causes of conflict in the region need to be addressed.

"So, we need to re-engage in the region and look for a real resolution, a comprehensive resolution, that deals with all of the underlying problems, and not just whatever Israel decides to do at a given moment," said Cooper.

The council is urging the public to sign onto a petition it has posted on its website urging the U.S. government to support an immediate cease-fire and use every resource to restart a comprehensive Middle East peace process.