Israel to accept EU force in Lebanon

Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, said on Sunday that his government would accept a peacekeeping force in Lebanon "made up of troops from European Union countries".

    Olmert stressed Israel did not intend to attack Syria

    "Israel is ready to see deployment of a force with military capabilities and combat experience made up of troops from European Union countries once its mandate has been fixed," Olmert said during talks with Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the visiting German foreign minister.


    The mandate "will have to include control of the border crossings between Syria and Lebanon, deployment in south Lebanon and support for the Lebanese army," the Israeli prime minister said.


    The force would also need to oversee the "full implementation of Resolution 1559 and the dismantling of the (military) capabilities of Hezbollah," he added, referring to a two-year-old UN Security Council resolution calling for the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon.


    Israel has repeatedly accused Syria of delivering weapons to Hezbollah across the border, a charge that Syria strongly denies.


    Olmert stressed that Israel did "not intend to attack Syria" but added: "If Syria joins the conflict, we will react severely.


    "We are not currently operating in Syria and so Syria has no reason to join the conflict," he said.


    Saudi proposal


    Prince Saud gave President Bush a
    letter from King Abdullah

    Meanwhile Saudi Arabia has asked President George Bush to intervene in Israel's military campaign in Lebanon to stop the mounting deaths.


    "We are requesting a cease-fire to allow for a cessation of hostilities," Prince Saud al-Faisal, the Saudi foreign minister, said after an Oval Office meeting with Bush on Sunday.


    Saud said he gave the US president a letter from Saudi King Abdullah asking that Bush help seek an immediate cease-fire in the Middle East conflict.


    Saud, accompanied by Prince Turki al-Faisal, the Saudi Ambassador to the United States, and Prince Bandar bin Sultan, chief of the Saudi National Security Council, met Bush for more than an hour.


    Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, also participated in the meeting before departing for Israel in the first US diplomatic effort on the ground since Israel began bombing Lebanon on July 12.


    Rice and Bush have rejected calls for an immediate cease-fire, saying it does not make sense if the terrorist threat from Hezbollah is not addressed. They have said Israel has a right to defend itself from terrorism and that Hezbollah must return two captured Israeli soldiers and stop firing missiles and rockets into Israel if they want the fighting to stop.


    Saud said Bush wants the violence to stop, although he did not say how Bush responded to the request for an immediate halt to Israel's bombing campaign.


    "I found the president very conscious of the destruction and the bloodshed that the Lebanese are suffering," Saud said. "His commitment (is) to see the cessation of hostilities. I have heard that from him personally, and that is why he is sending Ms. Rice to work out the details."


    The White House had no immediate comment on the meeting.



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