Page 2 of 2   <      

U.S. at Odds With Allies on Mideast Conflict

A Lebanese family with U.S. citizenship waves goodbye from the deck of a cruise ship taking as many as 1,000 Lebanese to the island of Cyprus.
A Lebanese family with U.S. citizenship waves goodbye from the deck of a cruise ship taking as many as 1,000 Lebanese to the island of Cyprus. (By Michael Robinson Chavez -- The Washington Post)

The State Department also tried to stress the basic international agreement on Hezbollah as the cause of the conflict. "I don't think anybody disagrees on the desire to end the violence in the region, but let's remember what the root causes of the violence are," spokesman Sean McCormack said.

But underscoring the differences with Europeans and other allies, a senior administration official said yesterday that the time is not yet ripe for a diplomatic solution. "The conditions that the G-8 [Group of Eight industrialized nations] talked about are not in place to get a real and permanent cease-fire that addresses the fundamental problems of the region," he said.

The official said Washington is privately advising Israel to consider the dire humanitarian situation and avoid civilian casualties. He said the Israelis "have a terrible problem" because Hezbollah is placing a lot of equipment in civilian neighborhoods. "They make mistakes, and there are accidents," he said. "It is impossible for them to avoid all the collateral damage."

U.S. support for Israel is also taking a toll on close coordination between the United States and France, which has been critical in fostering stability in the former French mandate country. That cooperation included a joint resolution that called for and achieved an end to Syria's 29-year occupation of Lebanon.

The two countries now appear seriously divided over the next step in resolving the crisis.

France proposed that the Security Council adopt a resolution that could call on Israel and Hezbollah to show "utmost restraint" and begin consideration of a reinforced U.N. peacekeeping presence in the region. The resolution would condemn unnamed "extremist forces" who are threatening Israeli and Lebanese democracies, and call for the release of Israeli troops by Hezbollah and the negotiation of "comprehensive and lasting cease-fire." It also proposes the disarmament of Hezbollah and support for Lebanon to exercise authority throughout the southern part of the country.

U.N. Ambassador John R. Bolton challenged France's proposal. "I am not sure that conventional thinking about a cease-fire makes any sense when you are dealing with a terrorist group that fires rockets at civilian populations and kidnaps innocent Israelis," he said.

Staff writer Michael Abramowitz contributed to this report.


<       2

© 2006 The Washington Post Company