President Bush and Prime Minister Blair announced an agreement to send a multinational stabilization force to Lebanon. After excerpts from a news conference, analysts Giovanni Castellaneta and Robin Niblett assess Europe's role in brokering a diplomatic solution.
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It was the prime minister's 15th visit with President Bush in the U.S. and, like many previous ones, dominated by a Mideast crisis.
GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States: The prime minister and I have committed our governments to a plan to make every effort to achieve a lasting peace out of this crisis. Our goal is to achieve a lasting peace, which requires that a free, democratic and independent Lebanese government be empowered to exercise full authority over its territory. We want a Lebanon free of militias and foreign interference and a Lebanon that governs its own destiny.
TONY BLAIR, Prime Minister of Britain: The purpose of what we are doing, therefore, is to bring about, yes, the cessation of hostilities — which we want to see as quickly and as urgently as possible — but also to put in place a framework that allows us to stabilize the situation for the medium and longer term.
Mr. President, you spoke of having a plan to rebuild houses in Lebanon. Wouldn't the people of Lebanon rather know when you're going to tell the Israelis to stop destroying houses?
And, Prime Minister, you've talked of having a plan today, but isn't the truth that you and the president believe that Israel is on the right side in the war on terror, and you want them to win this war, not to stop it?
GEORGE W. BUSH:
Look, we care deeply about the people whose lives have been affected in Lebanon, just like we care deeply about the people whose lives have been affected in Israel. There's over a million people in Israel that are, you know, are threatened by this consistent rocket attack coming out of Lebanon.
And, yes, we want to help people rebuild their lives, absolutely. But we also want to address the root causes of the problem. And the root cause of the problem is you've got Hezbollah that is armed and willing to fire rockets into Israel, a Hezbollah, by the way, that I firmly believe is backed by Iran and encouraged by Iran.
And so, for the sake of long-term stability, we've got to deal with this issue now. But make no mistake about it: It is the goal and aims of the terrorist organizations to stop that type of advance. That's what they're trying to do; they're trying to evoke sympathy for themselves.
They're not sympathetic people. They're violent, cold-blooded killers who are trying to stop the advance of freedom. And this is the calling of the 21st century, it seems like to me, and now's the time to confront the problem.
We can, all of us, you know, make whatever statements we want to do, use whatever words we want to do, but the brutal reality of the situation is that we're only going to get violence stopped and stability introduced on the basis of clear principles. Now, as I said, we've set out a way to do this, but it requires the long term, as well as the short term.