President Bush says a draft resolution before the U.N. Security Council is part of a process designed to address the root causes of the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah militants in Lebanon. Mr. Bush has been discussing the situation in the region with top aides gathered at his Texas ranch.
The president acknowledges that Israel and Lebanon have problems with some parts of the draft resolution. But, he says, everyone knows something must be done to end the violence. "I understand both parties are not going to agree to all aspects of the resolution," said Mr. Bush. "But the intent of the resolution is to strengthen the Lebanese government, so Israel has a partner in peace. The intent of the resolution is to address the root cause, which is a state operating within a state."
During a press conference at his Texas ranch, the president emphasized the resolution currently before the Security Council is part of a comprehensive process. He said it will be followed by a second resolution that would create a peacekeeping force, setting the conditions for an Israeli pull-out from southern Lebanon and the restoration of Lebanese sovereignty in a part of the country where Hezbollah forces are active.
"It is essential that it create the conditions for the Lebanese government to move its own forces, with international help, into the south of Lebanon, to prevent Hezbollah and its sponsors from creating another crisis," said the president.
Mr. Bush said Hezbollah's main backers - Syria and Iran - must help bring the fighting to an end. He said they know where the international community stands on the conflict. "I appreciate people focusing on Syria and Iran," said the president, "and we should, because Syria and Iran sponsor and promote Hezbollah activities, all aimed at creating chaos, all aimed at using terror to stop the advance of democracies."
President Bush spoke over the weekend by videoconference with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, but noted he is leaving all contacts with leaders in the Middle East in the hands of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Standing by his side, Rice told reporters that she has talked to the prime ministers of Israel and Lebanon and listened to their concerns. "We believe that the extant draft resolution is a firm foundation, is the right basis, but of course, we are going to listen to the concerns of the parties, and see how they might be addressed."
Rice said consultations would continue throughout the day at the United Nations to fine-tune the resolution to meet some of these concerns.