Italy to host int'l conference in hopes of reaching ceasefire
Reps of U.S., Lebanon, France, U.K., Russia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the UN, and EU to attend.
Italy will host an international conference next week to discuss the possibility of a ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon, the Italian government said on Friday.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will attend the conference on Wednesday, as will representatives from Lebanon, France, Britain, Russia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the United Nations and the European Union.
Rice on Friday dismissed growing pressure for an immediate ceasefire, telling reporters this would be a "false promise". She hoped her trip would create conditions for a lasting Middle East peace but said the diplomatic work would be difficult.
An Italian foreign ministry spokesman said neither Syria nor Iran - accused by Israel of sponsoring Hezbollah - had been invited, and no one from Israel was expected to attend for the time being.
"We agreed with the U.S. State Department to hold an international conference on Lebanon to look together for ways to bring about a ceasefire, relaunch humanitarian assistance to the Lebanese and discuss the stabilization of the region, including the possible deployment of an international force," Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema told state television.
Amid mounting world alarm at the 10-day war, a U.S. official had earlier said Rice would visit Israel and the Palestinian territories before heading to Rome.
In Italy, she expected to meet officials from Lebanon and other Arab states in search for a permanent solution to the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah.