Monday, July 24, 2006

Towards a Diplomatic Solution in Lebanon?

BEIRUT (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice flew unannounced to Beirut on Monday to seek a "sustainable" ceasefire in Lebanon, where Hizbollah guerrillas were battling an Israeli tank incursion in the south.

Rice met Prime Minister Fouad Siniora after her heavily guarded motorcade sped through Beirut from the U.S. embassy to the north where her helicopter had landed from Cyprus.

"Thank you for your courage and steadfastness," she told Siniora, who has repeatedly pleaded for an immediate ceasefire.

There was no immediate word the outcome of her meeting with Siniora, which lasted more than two hours, longer than planned.

On her way to the region, Rice said she wanted to create conditions for a sustainable ceasefire in a war that has cost 373 dead in Lebanon and at least 37 Israeli lives in 13 days.

Israel, after initially dismissing the idea, now says it would be willing for an international force to dislodge Hizbollah from south Lebanon and take control of Lebanon's border with Syria to stop the guerrillas re-arming.

"It doesn't matter who runs the mission, it's just important that the mission is accomplished," Israeli Vice Premier Shimon Peres told Italy's Corriere della Sera newspaper.

Amir Peretz had earlier also indicated that an international force to control South Lebanon would be acceptable to Israel.


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