Rice rejects immediate Mideast ceasefire | india | Hindustan Times
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Rice rejects immediate Mideast ceasefire

india Updated: Jul 22, 2006 11:12 IST

The US remained opposed to an immediate Middle East ceasefire because it would not end the threat posed by Hezbollah militants, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said as she prepared for a trip to the region.

Rice said on Friday that it remained "urgent" that the violence be halted but added that Hezbollah cannot be left in a position to carry out attacks against Israel in future and provoke a crisis like the one that erupted last week.

"A ceasefire would be a false promise if it simply returns us to the status quo," Rice told reporters. "That would be a guarantee of future violence."

"We do seek an end to the current violence, and we seek it urgently," Rice said. "More than that, we also seek to address the root causes of that violence so that a real and endurable peace can be established."

Rice is scheduled to leave for the Middle East Sunday to seek a diplomatic resolution to the fighting in Lebanon that has claimed hundreds of lives in 10 days.

She said she would meet with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. She will also travel to Rome to meet with the "Lebanon core group", which consists of US, UN, European and Middle East officials.

Rice said the US would work for political conditions in Lebanon so the government can be more effective in ensuring that Hezbollah can no longer have armed influence it currently enjoys.

A UN Security Council resolution calling for disarming Hezbollah must be put into action, she said.

The US considers Hezbollah a terrorist organisation backed by Iran and Syria and has called on Damascus to pressurise the militant group to release two abducted Israeli soldiers.

Israel has agreed to allow a "humanitarian corridor" in Lebanon so aid can be sent in to civilians and the US is preparing to provide humanitarian aid to Lebanese civilians, she said.

Rice stuck to the US government's stand that Hezbollah was to blame for the flare-up with its abduction of two Israeli soldiers, making plain that Washington sees a chance to curb Hezbollah's influence on Israel's border.

The world may be seeing "the birth pangs of a new Middle East," she told reporters in Washington.

"Whatever we do, we have to be certain that we are pushing forward to the new Middle East, not going back to the old one," Rice said.

Rice said the US was examining the possibility of an international force but that US soldiers were unlikely to play a role on Lebanese territory.

"We are looking at what kind of international assistance force makes sense, but I do not think that it is anticipated that US ground forces are expected for that force," she said.

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