U.N., Rice Seek Resolution to Mideast Crisis
Pressure is mounting for a U.N.-backed resolution to halt the fighting that's raged along the Israel-Lebanon border for nearly three weeks. President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair agreed Friday that any U.N. resolution must lead to a lasting peace in the area.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan will convene a meeting of world leaders in New York on Monday in a bid to put together a multinational peacekeeping force. "The time has come for us to really be action oriented," Annan said. President Bush says a multinational force should first focus on humanitarian relief in Lebanon.
The U.N. push will coincide with a renewed U.S.-led effort to resolve the crisis. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice returns to the region on Saturday with a renewed mandate from the Bush administration to urge some kind of resolution.
Israel is coming under increasing international criticism for its aerial campaign and Arab states have begun to rally in support of Hezbollah.
Reports in Israel suggest a strategic split between military officials and political leaders. The Israel Defense Forces are, apparently, eager to widen the ground offensive in southern Lebanon with the hope of flushing Hezbollah militants out of the border area. But Israel's security cabinet decided Thursday not to expand its push into southern Lebanon.
Hezbollah has made good on its promise to strike deeper into Israel. Among the thousands of missiles the group has launched into Israel, two longer-range missiles were fired on Friday. One of those missiles, the Khaibar-1, struck 30 miles south of the border near the Israeli city of Afula.
Hezbollah, which is regarded as a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department, is thought to have some missiles capable of reaching Tel Aviv, Israel's largest city.
Meanwhile, Israel's external intelligence organization, Mossad, doubts the IDF's success so far. IDF officials claim they have crippled Hezbollah's military capabilities. But the Mossad believes Hezbollah has managed to protect much of its arsenal.
U.N. humanitarian chief Jan Egeland called Hezbollah fighters "cowardly" for "hiding among civilians." But he also denounced what he termed Israel's "disproportionate response" to the initial Hezbollah attack on Israel earlier this month.
Egeland is seeking a 72-hour humanitarian cease-fire that he says will enable U.N. relief workers to deliver food and medicine to parts of the region cut off from supply lines.
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