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Bush Says Leaders Addressing Causes of Middle East Violence

By Scott Stearns, VOA, St. Petersburg

President Bush says leaders of the world's biggest industrialized nations have taken an important step to encourage Middle East peace by calling for an end to rocket attacks against Israel and a halt to Israeli military operations in Lebanon.

President Bush says he is most pleased that the Group of Eight leaders cobbled together a statement condemning violence and honoring innocent life.

At a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, President Bush said world leaders, for the first time, are really beginning to address with clarity the causes of the violence.

"Terrorist activity, mainly, Hezbollah, housed and encouraged by Syria and financed by Iran, are making these moves to stop the progress of peace," Mr. Bush said. "We hope that by addressing the conditions of this violence, we can get to a situation where there is calm."

G-8 leaders Sunday said creating the conditions for that calm means an end to Hezbollah rocket attacks against Israel and the return of kidnapped Israeli soldiers.

Their statement calls for the end of Israeli military operations, an early withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza and the release of detained Palestinian ministers and members of parliament.

The leaders say the immediate crisis results from extremist forces trying to destabilize the region and frustrate the ambitions of the Palestinian, Israeli and Lebanese people for democracy and peace.

It says extremist forces and those who support them cannot be allowed to plunge the Middle East into chaos and provoke a wider conflict.

The G-8 leaders did not call for an immediate ceasefire, which President Bush opposes. Instead, they called on Israel to be mindful of the strategic and humanitarian consequences of its actions as it exercises its right to self-defense.

They asked Israel to exercise utmost restraint by avoiding casualties among civilians and any acts that would destabilize the Lebanese government.

The leaders of the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations are holding their annual summit in St. Petersburg. The summit agenda, normally taken up by economic and political issues, has been dominated by concerns over escalating fighting in the Middle East.

The fighting in Lebanon began last week after militants from the Hezbollah group kidnapped two Israeli soldiers. Israel has responded by heavy air strikes into Lebanon, while Hezbollah has fired rockets into Israeli communities.

... Payvand News - 7/17/06 ... --

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