posted on Jul, 24 2006 @ 09:46 PM
BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) -- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sought to buttress Lebanon's fragile democratic government Monday after nearly two weeks
of warfare, making this stricken capital a surprise first stop on a high-stakes Mideast diplomatic mission. At the same time, the Bush administration
announced it was sending humanitarian aid.
Rice's visit marked the first high-level U.S. diplomatic mission to the area since fighting erupted on July 12. But she disappointed Lebanese leaders
who had hoped her lightning trip would hasten a cease-fire in the fighting between Israel and the Hezbollah militants in Lebanon that has claimed
hundreds of civilians' lives.
"Thank you for your courage and steadfastness," she told Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora, who has repeatedly asked for international help in
bringing a halt to cross-border Israeli-Hezbollah shelling. Rice flew next to Jerusalem but made clear that she would not pressure Israeli leaders for
an immediate cease-fire during meetings Monday and Tuesday.
In a meeting that appeared tense, Saniora told the U.S. diplomat that Israel's bombardment had taken his country "backwards 50 years," the prime
minister's office said. And Nabih Berri, a veteran Lebanese politician who is Lebanon's parliament speaker and Hezbollah's de facto negotiator,
rejected proposals brought by Rice almost as soon as she left.
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The message carried by Secretary Rice to the Israelis, and to the region, seems clear. Israel appears to have it's "green light" for the invasion of
Asking for a U.N. peacekeeping force to make a cease-fire deal stick may sound good, but that's all it is. A media-friendly platitude. Asking for
something she knows she can't have has cast Dr. Rice in the role of a troubled mediator. And yet, it leaves no room for doubt about exactly what the
U.S. position is.
Like it or not, the course of this war will now be decided from Tel Aviv. Israel has a history-making opportunity to put down one of its trouble,
once and for all. Can they pull it off? Do they know what the price will be? Success for Israel may very well mean uneasy peace in the region and a
bad national reputation for the rest of this century.