Wednesday, July 26, 2006

“determination to work immediately to reach with the utmost urgency a cease-fire"

Diplomats dither.

ROME, July 26 — In the face of United States opposition, an international conference here today stopped short of calling for an immediate cease-fire in the Lebanon crisis.

The conference instead adopted more nebulous language that reflected America’s desire to give Israel time to continue its bombardment of Hezbollah targets.

In a statement, diplomats from the United States, Europe, Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia expressed their “determination to work immediately to reach with the utmost urgency a cease-fire that puts an end to the current violence and hostilities.”

The diplomats also called for an international military force to be deployed in southern Lebanon under the auspices of the United Nations, after NATO members said their alliance was already overstretched. And they called for a regional conference, including Syria and Iran, to discuss security issues.

The release of the diplomats’ prepared statement was delayed by almost two hours by wrangling over its contents. The key sticking point was the phrase concerning a ceasefire, according to two European diplomats who were in the room.

Most of the officials in the room were seeking, at the very least, a phrase that said the group would “work towards an immediate ceasefire,” one of the diplomats said. But Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice refused, and won, he said.

“She insisted it say ‘work immediately to bring a ceasefire,’ not ‘work to bring an immediate ceasefire,’” the diplomat said. He said that the group argued about that for more than 30 minutes before ceding the point to the United States.

Meanwhile, in Lebanon...


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