Left: US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, courtesy of AP
(Rome) US, European and Arab representatives held crisis talks today on Lebanon, but failed to come to agreement on an immediate plan to bring an end to the fighting between Israeli and Hezbollah forces.
While most of the 15 countries represented pressed for an immediate, unconditional end to the fighting, the United States - backed by Britain - refused to accept a cease-fire that does not include conditions on de-arming Hezbollah.
"We all committed to dedicated and urgent action to try to bring about an end to violence that would be sustainable" and leave the Lebanese government in full control of its territory, Rice told reporters, and added that a UN peacekeeping force is needed with "a strong and robust capability to help bring about peace, to help provide the ability for humanitarian efforts to go forward and to bring an end to the violence."
However, no significant progress was achieved toward getting the warring parties to agree to a cease-fire.
White House Press Secretary Tony Snow tried to put the collapse of peace talks in a positive light.
"If the talks broke down, they wouldn't have come out with a joint statement that showed that they are knitted up on the key items," he said.
The military actions of the Israelis in Palestinian and Lebanese territories have come under increasingly harsh attack by many world leaders, and the destruction of a UN observation post by Israeli forces yesterday brought international condemnation.
Even more disturbing is the revelation that Egyptian Unifil soldiers were fired on by Israeli troops as they tried to retrieve the four dead bodies of the UN workers.
Israeli officials have publicly denied that the UN post was deliberately targeted, and offered condolences to the families of the dead UN workers.