Hezbollah cannot be handed a major victory by forcing a halt to fighting and one of the major aspects of a "real" ceasefire would be in creating a buffer zone in southern Lebanon so that events will not repeat themselves, a top Bush administration official said on Monday.
"...If you stop the fighting right now, you'd hand Hezbollah a major victory, because they'd be positioned just north of Israel. They'd be able to fire those rockets at any time, as they did 90 of them yesterday into Israel," Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns said.
"So what we're trying to achieve is a real cease-fire, where Hezbollah pulls back, where there's a buffer zone in southern Lebanon, where there can't be any more recipe for the kind of war that we've seen over the last two weeks. This is a meaningful cease-fire that we're talking about. We want to bring an end to this fighting," Burns added.
The top administration official also brushed off on a question as to why Washington is not talking directly with Damascus.
According to Burns the immediate problem is between Israel, the Hezbollah and the government of Lebanon;and actions of Syria such as in arming the Hezbollah or Syria's hand in the assassination of the former Prime Minister of Lebanon have not helped matters in establishing contacts at very high levels.
"... The problem is not lack of communications between the United States and Syria. We have a Syrian ambassador here in Washington. We have an American charge d'affaires in Damascus. The problem is that Syria is now arming Hezbollah," he said.
"Syria and Iran working together have given Hezbollah some of the longer-range rocketry that have enabled Hezbollah to strike further into Israel than we had imagined several weeks ago. And so we are calling upon the Syrian government to stop its arming of Hezbollah and to right its policy, and to try to contribute towards a peaceful solution in the area," Burns said in response to a question.
"... The problem here is between Israel and Hezbollah, and that's the immediate problem. And we're talking to the two governments that will be critical in any kind of cease-fire. That's the Israeli government and the Lebanese governments.
"We, in fact, have not dealt with Syria at the highest levels, in terms of President Bush or Secretary Rice, since they assassinated, they helped to assassinate Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in Lebanon a year-and-a-half ago. So there's very good reason why Secretary Rice is not going to be going to Damascus on this trip," Burns said.