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Secretary Rice Says Diplomatic Goal is “Sustainable Peace”

In a preview of her trip to the Middle East, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the violence must end in a stable and lasting peace, not just a cease-fire. Middle East experts Martin Indyk and Robert Malley discuss prospects for a diplomatic resolution.

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  • RAY SUAREZ:

    After two days of meetings with United Nations officials in New York to discuss the ongoing crisis in the Middle East, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice returned to Washington to outline U.S. strategy and her trip Sunday to the region. The first stop is Israel.

    CONDOLEEZZA RICE, U.S. Secretary of State: It is important to remember that the cause of the current violence was Hezbollah's illegal attack from Lebanese territory. It is unacceptable to have a situation where the decision of a terrorist group can drag an entire country, even an entire region, into violence.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    Fighting continued to rage between the Israeli military and Hezbollah, as the U.N. Security Council met again today to discuss the crisis.

  • CONDOLEEZZA RICE:

    Today, the United States renews its call for the immediate release of the abducted Israeli soldiers. And as Israel exercises the right of any sovereign nation to defend itself, we urge Israel's leaders to do so with the greatest possible care to avoid harming innocent civilians and with care to protect civilian infrastructure.

    We do seek an end to the current violence, and we seek it urgently. More than that, we also seek to address the root causes of that violence so that a real and endurable peace can be established.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    Secretary Rice says she plans to meet with Israel's prime minister and, in Rome, with members from the U.N. Security Council and Arab states. She defended her decision not to meet with any Syrian or Hezbollah officials.

  • CONDOLEEZZA RICE:

    First of all, Syria knows what it needs to do, and Hezbollah is the source of the problem. The issue here is that, in Resolution 1559 and ever since, the world has spoken to the need of Lebanon to be able to function as a sovereign government without the interference of foreign powers. That's why Syrian forces were told to leave Lebanon.

    The resolutions have insisted that the government of Lebanon needs to be able to extend its authority over all of its territory, and you can't have a situation in which the south of Lebanon is a haven for unauthorized, armed groups that sit and fire rockets into Israel, plunging the entire country into chaos, when the Lebanese government did not even know that this was going to be done.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    The secretary also acknowledged that other world leaders, like U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, had called for an immediate cease-fire, but she said that would not be good enough.

  • CONDOLEEZZA RICE:

    … I can guarantee you, if you simply look for a cease-fire that acknowledges and freezes the status quo ante, we will be back here in six months again, or in five months, or in nine months, or in a year trying to get another cease-fire, because Hezbollah will have decided yet again to try and to use southern Lebanon as a sanctuary to fire against Israel.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    Hezbollah not only has a well-armed militia based in Lebanon, it's also a political party. Hezbollah members hold cabinet and parliament positions in the Lebanese government. Secretary Rice said those members failed to act responsibly.

  • CONDOLEEZZA RICE:

    If, indeed, Hezbollah went without the authority of the Lebanese government, violated every conceivable international norm — not to mention a number of international U.N. Security Council resolutions — and didn't bother to tell the members of the Lebanese government. So, obviously, they didn't act in a responsible way in their political cloak.

  • JAMES ROSEN, FOX News Correspondent:

    Madam Secretary, as you mentioned, a key element of Resolution 1559 calls for the dismantling of terrorist militia groups inside Lebanon by the sovereign authority of that government.

    What have you heard from your discussions with the Lebanese that would explain why they have made so little progress on that up to now? And what you think would change in the next week or two in the political framework that would suddenly allow them to make progress on that?

  • CONDOLEEZZA RICE:

    Well, clearly, this is a young government that does not have the capacity to do everything that was anticipated in 1559; it's just the case.

    What we have to do is to help create a framework in which, first of all, the end to the violence would push forward the sovereignty of the Lebanese government and the deployment of Lebanese forces southward, with some kind of international assistance, perhaps significant international assistance. And then we have to continue to work with this government on the political front.

    But what I said, James, is that — in answer to Lisa's question — is that it is now clear why 1559 anticipates a circumstance in which you cannot have people with one foot in politics and one foot in terror, because that Hezbollah sitting within the Lebanese government, as ministers within the Lebanese government, would launch an attack without the knowledge of the Lebanese government, that then plunged the Lebanese people into the circumstances that they are, unfortunately, now in.

    That's why 1559 has wisdom, but we will work on a political framework to help the Lebanese to fulfill those terms.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    Rice said the Syrian government, which has long backed Hezbollah, must make a move.

  • CONDOLEEZZA RICE:

    The Syrians have to make a choice. Do they really wish to be associated with the circumstances that help extremism to grow in the region? Or are they going to be a part of what is clearly a consensus of the major Arab states in the region that extremism is one of the problems here?

    In this sense, I would just ask you to look back on what is being said by some of these Arab states. Everybody wants the violence to stop; there is no difference there. But this is different than times in the past when there has been a reflexive response from the Arab states.

    This time I think you're getting a very clear indication of where people think the problem is, and Syria has to determine whether it's going to be a part of that consensus or not.

  • QUESTION:

    Madam Secretary, aren't you concerned that the delay in halting the fighting and the loss of many civilian lives in Lebanon will hamper your efforts to win the hearts and minds of the Arab world?

  • CONDOLEEZZA RICE:

    I'm concerned about civilian casualties, because I'm concerned about civilian casualties. Nobody wants to see innocent civilians caught up in this kind of fighting.

    And it's why we are very determined to do more about the humanitarian situation. It's why we have talked so determinedly and so frequently with the Israelis about restraint in their operations. It's why we've worked to get the humanitarian corridors opened.

    This is a terrible thing for the Lebanese people. The unfortunate fact is that, if we don't do this right, if we don't create political conditions that allow an end to the violence, to also deal with the root cause, deal with the circumstances that produced this violence, then we're going to be back here in several months more.

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