European diplomacy fails to produce concrete results

Posted in Broader Middle East | 19-Jul-06 | Author: Karine Raad| Source: The Daily Star (Lebanon Edition)

BEIRUT: European efforts to end the war seem to have stalled as Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said Tuesday that EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana promised only to return to Lebanon "soon" as he had "no offer to make as of yet." Solana's pledge came in a telephone call with Siniora. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan also promised to inform Siniora of any developments.

Meanwhile, Cabinet held a session chaired by President Emile Lahoud to discuss mounting casualties and a humanitarian crisis being caused by Israel's relentless onslaught.

Information Minister Ghazi Aridi told reporters afterward Siniora had sent letters to Arab and Islamic states briefing them on the latest developments.

Aridi added that Defense Minister Elias Murr presented a report on the security situation, the losses incurred to date and the ministry's expectations.

"The Lebanese Army plays a main role to confront aggression and defend the country and citizens," Aridi said, quoting Murr. "We will not allow anyone to target it in order to depict it as a weak institution and therefore drag the country to internal strife."

Israel has targeted several army bases over the past week.

Lahoud said Tuesday night's Jamhour attack on the Jamhour base "was a catastrophe. No one expected an Israeli attack on the army's work regiment, which assists people."

"They say they want the distribution of the army along the Southern border yet they attack it," he added.

"Considering the bloodshed against the Lebanese Army and civilians, we ask the international community to press for a cease-fire, and later we can discuss everything," Lahoud said before the session. "It is not acceptable that Israel commits massacres on a daily basis with the knowledge of the international community."

Murr described the raid on the Jamhour Works Regiment barracks as a "massacre." The regiment's role is to help rebuild and maintain infrastructure.

"Killing military officers while asleep in their barracks ... is not war," he said.

Aridi said Saudi Crown Prince Sultan Bin Abdel-Aziz was expected to head to France soon to seek a cease-fire.

Lebanon's leading politicians also continued to speak out against the Israeli attacks.

Progressive Socialist Party leader and MP Walid Jumblatt supported calls for a truce, provided negotiations were handled by the government.

The Druze leader also complained that at a time when Lebanon's leaders were holding talks to disarm the resistance according to a national defense strategy, Hizbullah captured two Israeli soldiers. He said the decision to carry out such an attack was made in Tehran and Damascus to divert attention from Iran's nuclear ambitions and the formation of an international court to try those accused of former premier Rafik Hariri's assassination - a murder widely blamed on Syria.

He also accused Hizbullah's leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, of having burdened the Lebanese people and the state with the decision's consequences.

Separately, Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun said that "Israel will fail to destroy Hizbullah because Hizbullah is an integral part of the people."

In an interview with Al-Jazeera, the MP called for an immediate end to hostilities.

Aoun said he was grateful for Arab offers of assistance, but "I prefer that a road be secured so that the country can buy its own goods."

He also slammed, but did not name, Arab states for their "condemnations of Hizbullah," which he said gave Israel a free hand to continue its siege.

"There is no one in Lebanon that effectively makes decisions of peace and war; only Israel," Aoun said.

Aoun also called for sharing responsibility for the crisis, saying: "We must not hide behind the excuse of Hizbullah. We will only address accusations when we have the full details."

Speaker Nabih Berri met with the head of the Higher Lebanese-Syrian Council, Nasri Khoury, who said his country would put its full services at the disposal of all Lebanese.

"We are also cooperating with the Syrian Red Crescent to transfer aid," he added.

Referring to attacks on infrastructure, Siniora said that "the escalation of violence in this savage way proves that Israel has decided to take Lebanon back 50 years."

"Israel is committing heinous crimes against humanity on a daily basis," the premier added, once more calling for international support to broker a cease-fire.

Extending condolences to the families of the victims in the Jamhour raids, he said that "targeting the army barracks clearly proves that the military institution ... is playing a pioneering role at this critical phase."

Continuing a regional tour begun when the Israeli offensive caught him outside the country, parliamentary majority MP Saad Hariri said from Istanbul Tuesday that he had asked Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to open a maritime channel to provide assistance.

Erdogan was also asked to use his "influential ties in the region" to end Israel's onslaught.

In a separate interview with Al-Jazeera, Hariri said there was "no partial solution; there must be a comprehensive one."

"The idea of sending international forces is an idea," Hariri said, adding that all Lebanese were united. "No matter what Israel does, it will fail to destroy Lebanon."

"Lebanon must not be a battlefield for other forces," the MP said, adding that the responsible parties will be "called to account after the crisis is over."