Rome Summit Fails To Broker Lebanon Cease-Fire

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ROME — Secretary of State Rice urged the international community yesterday to work quickly to end the “spasms of violence” rocking the Middle East, but America remained isolated from most of its allies by insisting that any cease-fire address the region’s long-term problems.

“There is much work to do and everyone has a role to play,” said Ms. Rice, joined by Secretary-General Annan and diplomats from European and moderate Arab countries attending a day-long conference on the Middle East crisis.

The policy conference came after two weeks of fighting between Israel and the Hezbollah militia in which hundreds of Lebanese have been killed and more than half a million more have become refugees. Hezbollah has inflicted dozens of Israeli casualties by firing hundreds of rockets into northern Israel and in firefights with Israeli troops.

“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, Ms. Rice told reporters. South Lebanon has been controlled by Hezbollah guerrillas for years.

Ms. Rice said participants in the meeting agreed on the need for an international force in south Lebanon under a U.N. mandate that would have “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.”

But Ms. Rice conceded that it would take further meetings for countries to agree on details on precisely how that force would operate and what its mission would be. And as yesterday’s session ended, it was clear that differences also remained over how, and under what conditions, a cease-fire could be imposed on Israel and Hezbollah.

In Washington, the White House worked put a positive face on the meeting.

“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,” the White House press secretary, Tony Snow, said.

He said the statement released there tracks with the G-8 statement and the diplomacy America has been conducting and said that two American envoys to the Middle East, Elliot Abrams and David Welch, will remain in the region while Ms. Rice travels on to Malaysia.

Before the session ended, a diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity said the international diplomats gathered here had been struggling to reach a consensus on a formal statement about the violence. That caused the briefing by Ms. Rice, Mr. Annan, and others to be delayed by more than 90 minutes.

The diplomat said the sticking point was language about the terms under which fighting would end. The source insisted on anonymity because discussions on a conference resolution were still ongoing.

Earlier, Prime Minister Siniora of Lebanon gave an impassioned speech that prodded the international leaders to continue working, Ms. Rice said, saying he put “a human face” on the crisis.

Ms. Rice told reporters: “What we agreed upon is that there should be an international force under a U.N. mandate that will have 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.”

She stressed that Mr. Siniora himse lf has said “there must be one authority over military force” and the international community will support the Lebanese government and work with it achieving that element of a U.N. resolution.

Ms. Rice said she had had private discussions with Mr. Siniora here — and separately with Prime Minister Olmert — but declined to disclose the details.

“The goal here is to see how the United States can contribute to end this violence so the Lebanese people and the Israeli people can live in peace,” she said.

[Ms. Rice and Foreign Minister Paek Nam Sun of North Korea will take part in the Association of Southeast Asia Nations forum in Kuala Lumpur, raising the prospect of a resumption of sixnation talks, Bloomberg News reports. She will arrive in Kuala Lumpur tomorrow.

The efforts by Asean, as the 10-member regional grouping is known, may help ease heightened tension in the Korean peninsula. North Korea fired seven missiles that landed in the Sea of Japan on July 5, including a long-range Taepodong-2.The United Nations Security Council on July 15 voted to adopt a resolution demanding that North Korea suspend its missile program and barring the nation from acquiring or selling missile technology.]

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