Siniora Tells Rice Not to Bother with Visit Until Truce Secured
Nada Bakri – Daily Star Beirut July 31, 2006
Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora warned US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Sunday not to come to Lebanon until a cease-fire is in place, calling Israel's deadly air strike on the village of Qana "terrorism at its worst." Siniora also hinted that any Hizbullah response to the massacre of at least 60 civilians in Qana was justified.
"As long as the aggression continues there is response to be exercised," he said when asked about a Hizbullah threat to retaliate for the Qana massacre.
But Siniora said the best way out of what he described as an "untenable situation" was a permanent cease-fire.
Hizbullah said through its Al-Manar television station that "the massacre at Qana will not go unanswered."
Siniora also praised Hizbullah fighters and their leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah. "We highly appreciate his [Nasrallah's] stance and those who are sacrificing their lives for the sake of Lebanon," Siniora said.
Siniora said he telephoned UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, urging him to convene an emergency meeting of the Security Council and arrange for an immediate cease-fire.
The strike in Qana, the single deadliest attack in 19 days of warfare, threatened to at least temporarily disrupt US attempts to put together a broad package to end the crisis.
Siniora said Lebanon remains committed to the seven-point plan he proposed in a Rome conference last week that earned praise from Rice. But he insisted his plan could only be discussed after a cease-fire was secured.
"We will not negotiate until the Israeli war stops shedding the blood of innocent people," he said. "If there was a cease-fire we would have saved ourselves, and Israel, this horrible crime, this crime against humanity, this terrorism at its worst."
Rice had been scheduled to meet Siniora Sunday, but was told by the prime minister that there was nothing to talk about until a cease-fire is put in place: "She called me this morning and I told her clearly 'there is no other time than now to call for an immediate cease-fire."
Last updated 02/08/2006