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End destruction of Lebanon: PM

Strongly criticising Israel for the arrest and detention of Palestinian ministers, Manmohan seeks immediate ceasefire.
None | By Indo-Asian News Service, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JUL 27, 2006 06:17 PM IST

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday demanded "an immediate ceasefire" to end "the destruction of Lebanon" and also sought a "comprehensive and negotiated solution" to the West Asia crisis.

Speaking in the Lok Sabha, the Prime Minister strongly criticised Israel for the arrest and detention of Palestinian ministers in the wake of Tel Aviv's military campaign against the Hezbollah in Lebanon.

"In our view, there should be an immediate ceasefire so that the destruction of Lebanon is ended and humanitarian assistance could be provided," Manmohan Singh said, reading out a prepared statement.

He said that, in response to an appeal from the Lebanese government, India had decided to contribute Rs 100 million ($2.2 million) for humanitarian and relief efforts to rebuild Lebanon.

"India has also condemned the wholly unjustified arrest and continuing detention of ministers of the Palestinian National Authority and members of the Palestinian Legislative Council.

"There can be no justification whatsoever for taking such action against the duly elected representatives of the Palestinian people.

"The virtual destruction of a country which has been painfully rebuilt after two decades of civil war can hardly be countenanced by any civilized state.

"All sides must immediately halt the violence and give diplomacy a chance. Diplomacy, to succeed, should have a long-term solution that involves and addresses the legitimate concerns of all parties in the region, leading to a comprehensive and negotiated solution."

The Prime Minister said that India was "seriously concerned" about the escalation of conflict between Israel and the Hezbollah extending across the Lebanon-Israel border.

"West Asia is our extended neighbourhood and tensions in that region affect our security and our vital interests. These developments have inflamed an already tense and delicate situation in the region."

He said that Indian warships had rescued a total of 1,870 people, including 1,687 Indians, from Lebanon since the unrest began. The others were citizens of Sri Lanka, Nepal and Lebanon.

"It is our estimate that approximately 12,000 Indian nationals were in Lebanon at the time of the outbreak of hostilities. They are mostly semi-skilled and unskilled workers who were working in farms and factories.

"Of these a large number have not indicated their desire to leave Lebanon. Some of them appear to have decided to stay back, others may have been unable to reach Beirut because of the disruption in communications."

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