Rice Seeks ‘Urgent and Enduring’ Peace

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RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) – Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in a frenetic set of meetings amid intense Israeli-Hezbollah fighting, said Tuesday the United States wants an “urgent and enduring” peace where problems are solved without war.

Talking to reporters after meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Rice said, “We need to get to a sustainable peace, there must be a way for people to reconcile their differences.”

Earlier, meeting in Jerusalem with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, she said the time has come for a new Middle East. “I have no doubt there are those who wish to strangle a democratic and sovereign Lebanon in its crib,” Rice said. “We, of course, also urgently want to end the violence.”

In Israel, she reiterated the United States’ position that a cessation of hostilities in Lebanon must come with conditions, saying there is “no desire” on the part of U.S. officials to come back in weeks or months after terrorists find another way to disrupt any potential cease fire.

“It is time for a new Middle East,” she said. “It is time to say to those that don’t want a different kind of Middle East that we will prevail. They will not.”

Olmert welcomed Rice warmly and vowed that “Israel is determined to carry on this fight against Hezbollah.” He said his government “will not hesitate to take severe measures against those who are aiming thousands of rockets and missiles against innocent civilians for the sole purpose of killing them.”

In what amounted to a score for U.S. diplomacy, Olmert’s office told Rice that Israel will allow the opening of safe passages in Lebanon for the transport of humanitarian aid to all areas of the country.

A team of Israeli military officials will meet with international military experts to outline the pathways, Olmert told Rice, according to his office.

Rice, who then left for Rome for more meetings on the Mideast, is working on two essential fronts _ Israel’s tensions with the Palestinians as well as the fighting to its north along its border with Lebanon, where two weeks of fighting with Lebanese Hezbollah militia have left hundreds of civilians dead, mostly on the Lebanese side.

During a meeting with that included about a dozen U.S. and Palestinian officials, Rice and Abbas talked about getting additional aid to the debt-laden Palestinian government as well as the state of an Israeli soldier captured last month by Hamas-linked militants.

Rice said she briefed Abbas “on efforts we’re making to bring about an urgent but enduring cease-fire in Lebanon, one that can deal with the causes of extremism that began this crisis and that can also lead to the establishment of the sovereignty of the Lebanese government throughout its territory.”

Rice told Abbas that while she and other allies are engaged in resolving the situation in Lebanon, the U.S. has not forgotten the Palestinians’ plight.

“The Palestinian people have lived too long with violence and the daily humiliations that go along with the circumstances here,” she said.

“I assured the president that we had great concerns about the sufferings of innocent people throughout the region,” she told reporters, saying that “even as the Lebanon situation resolves, we must remain focused on what is happening here.”

“You have our pledge that our common work of bringing a two-state solution to the people of Palestine and the people of Israel that we will not tire in our efforts,” Rice said.

Abbas renewed a call for an Israeli-Palestinian truce, following a monthlong Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip, launched to free a captured Israeli soldier.

“We are exerting all our efforts to release the Israeli soldier,” he said, adding that he hoped thousands of Palestinian prisoners would also be freed by Israel.

“Israeli aggression in the West Bank and Gaza Strip must stop immediately so we can strengthen the truce and start a political process that aims to end the occupation,” he said.

No Hamas representatives were in the room when Rice met with Abbas.

More than 432 people have been reported killed in Lebanon and Israel since fighting broke out July 12 between Israeli forces and Hezbollah guerrillas after Hezbollah killed eight Israeli soldiers and captured two others, provoking Israel’s biggest military campaign against Lebanon in 24 years.

In Washington, Henry Crumpton, the State Department’s counterterrorism coordinator, said Israel was faced with “stalwart defenses” and “it is going to be hard for Israel to get it done.”

Crumpton told reporters that Hezbollah can cover about one-third of Israel’s territory with long-range missiles. “I don’t think the international community understands this,” the former CIA official said.

“I don’t think it is going to end in a few days,” Crumpton said of the Israeli offensive in Lebanon.

Syria’s delivery of missiles to Hezbollah has “completely stopped,” he said, attributing the suspension to delivery problems in a combat environment rather than any change of heart.

Rice took a motorcade to Ramallah for her meeting with Abbas. About 45 minutes before Rice’s arrival, police scuffled with hundreds of Palestinians in an anti-U.S. protest outside the government building where the meeting was being held.

No protesters were in sight by the time the Rice party arrived.

Israelis have welcomed her message that a long-term solution is essential to dealing with their conflict with guerrilla fighters from the militant groups Hezbollah and Hamas. However, the Palestinians are among those pushing for a quick cease-fire to end what they see as the suffering of the Lebanese people.

Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said Monday he wanted Rice to force Israel to end its Gaza offensive.

The New York Sun

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