Lebanese PM calls for cease-fire, says half million displaced
Lebanese PM: Over half million civilians displaced; Assad: World should impose cease-fire to end crisis.
BEIRUT - Lebanon's prime minister called for an immediate cease-fire with Israel on Wednesday, a week after start of fighting sparked by the abduction of two Israel Defense Forces soldiers by Hezbollah.
In a swipe at the international community, particularly the United States, which said Israel was acting in self-defense, Fouad Siniora said, "Is this what the international community calls the right of self-defense? Is this the price to pay?"
In the first casualty figure officially announced by the government Siniora said that 300 people have been killed, 1,000 wounded and half a million displaced in Israel's operation.
Siniora added he would seek compensation from Israel for the "unimaginable losses" to the nation's infrastructure.
Speaking to a gathering of foreign ambassadors, Siniora made an urgent appeal for end to hostilities on a humanitarian basis.
"We will spare no avenue to make Israel compensate" for the destruction inflicted on the country, he told the gathering, which included the U.S. ambassador.
At the gathering, the ambassadors were shown a photo exhibit of damage from the Israeli campaign, in which the international airport was hit and closed, roads bombed, bridges destroyed and various regions of the country cut off.
"Lebanon deserves life. What kind of life is being offered to us now?" he said. "We the Lebanese want life, we have chosen life. We refuse to die. Our choice is clear. We have survived the wars and destruction (before), we shall also do that now. ... I sincerely hope you will not let us down," Siniora said.
Chirac urges 'humanitarian corridors' in LebanonFrench President Jacques Chirac on Wednesday asked that protected safe routes be set up in Lebanon to allow people to flee fighting there without fear of Israeli airstrikes.
Chirac said authorities must urgently mark off "humanitarian corridors" within Lebanon and also between Lebanon and Cyprus, where many evacuees are heading as a stop-off point. He also dispatched aid to Lebanon and said there must be a cease-fire.
"We cannot let the situation develop as it is developing now," Chirac said after a crisis meeting with members of his government.
France has historical ties with Lebanon and has taken an active role in attempts to ease the crisis, which has brought Israel's heaviest offensive in Lebanon in 24 years. France sent its prime minister and foreign minister to Lebanon this week and has circulated ideas at the UN Security Council.
Chirac said France was sending a relief plane carrying supplies to the region, including medicine and means of purifying drinking water. France also dispatched military transport to improve connections between Lebanon and nearby Cyprus, Chirac said, without specifying whether it was air or marine transport.
The French president called the fighting a "dramatic situation that deeply worries us" and asked for concessions from both sides.
He urged the Hezbollah militant group to release two Israeli soldiers held prisoner and to stop hitting Israel with missiles, while he asked the Israelis to stop deadly bombings in Lebanon.
Chirac reiterated his calls for the implementation of UN resolution 1559, which calls for the disbanding and disarmament of all militias in Lebanon.
"All the Lebanese must understand that Lebanon will not be stable ... and democratic if part of its territory is occupied by militias," he said.
Assad calls for internationally-backed truceSyrian President Bashar Assad said on Wednesday that the international community should act quickly to arrange a cease-fire to end the Israeli-Lebanese crisis, the Syrian state news agency SANA said.
It said Assad had made the comments, the first by Syria on its desire for a ceasefire between its ally Hezbollah and Israel, in a telephone conversation with Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan.
"The conversation covered the international stance and how the international community is procrastinating on imposing a cease-fire and ending the crisis," SANA said.