U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived in Israel on Monday for talks about the ongoing fight between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon, saying that she was looking for a sustainable peace.
The United States has not yet pushed for Israel to halt its offensive in Lebanon, saying that it did not support a deal that would leave Hezbollah guerrillas on Israel's border.
"Every peace has to be based on enduring principles," Rice said, speaking to the media before she met with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.
"Ultimately, a Middle East that is peaceful and democratic will be a place where peace is sustainable," she said.
"We are concerned about the humanitarian situation," she said. "And nobody wants to see when innocent civilians are harmed."
Livni said that Israel would only agree to a cease-fire that included the release of two soldiers that Hezbollah kidnapped July 12, the dismantling of Hezbollah and the deployment of the Lebanese army in southern Lebanon.
"We will not and we cannot expect less than to succeed," she said.
Rice is due to meet Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Tuesday. She will also meet Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Monday that Syria cannot be a partner to diplomatic efforts to secure an end to fighting in Lebanon and northern Israel.
"Syria is not a partner to diplomatic efforts. The Syrians could earn recognition if only they weren't keeping their finger on the trigger on two fronts - in Lebanon and in Gaza," Olmert said.
Rice arrived in Lebanon on Monday at the start of a trip to calm violence in the Middle East, Lebanese political sources said.
Rice met Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora after her heavily guarded motorcade sped through Beirut from the U.S. embassy to the north where her helicopter had landed from Cyprus.
"Thank you for your courage and steadfastness," she told Siniora, who has repeatedly pleaded for an immediate cease-fire.
A U.S. official in Rice's party said she would announce aid for Lebanon, where Israel Air Force bombing has displaced half a million people and wrecked installations worth an estimated $1 billion.
Lebanon's parliament speaker, Hezbollah's de facto negotiator, rejected proposals brought by Rice on Monday, inisisting a cease-fire must preceed any talks about resolving Hezbollah's presence in the south, an official close to the speaker said.
Rice's talks with Siniora also appeared to have been tense. Siniora told Rice that Israel's bombardment was taking his country "backwards 50 years" and also called for a "swift cease-fire," the prime minister's office said.
An official close to parliament speaker Nabih Beri said his talks with Rice failed to "reach an agreement because Rice insisted on one full package to end the fighting."
The package included a cease-fire, simultaneous with the deployment of the Lebanese army and an international force in south Lebanon and the removal of Hezbollah weapons from a buffer zone extending 30 kilometers from the Israeli border, said the official. He spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks were private.
Beri rejected the package, proposing instead a two-phased plan. First would come a cease-fire and negotiations for a prisoner swap. Then an inter-Lebanese dialogue would work out a solution to the situation in south Lebanon, said the official.
The United States has insisted that no cease-fire can take place without dealing what it calls the root cause of the violence - Hezbollah's domination of the south along the Israeli border. Israel has rejected any halt in the fighting until two soldiers captured by the guerrillas are freed and the guerrillas are forced back.
The U.S. has said an international force might be necessary to help the Lebanese army move into the south. The central government has long refused to send the army in, insisting Hezbollah is a legitimate force and fearing that doing so would tear apart the country becuase of the guerrillas' strength.
In a sign of the differences between the United States and Lebanon, Siniora presented his own package for a permanent solution that contained long-standing Lebanese complaints that must be addressed before "Lebanese authority can be spread over all areas," his office said.
It included a call for a "swift cease-fire." Then would come an over-all solution guaranteeing the return of Lebanese prisoners held by Israel, Israel's withdrawal from the Shaba Farms - a tiny border region that Lebanon claims - and the provision of minefields lain in south Lebanon during its 18-year occupation of the region.
Rice said there was an urgent need for a cease-fire in southern Lebanon but conditions had to be right.
Speaking to reporters Sunday as she flew to the region, Rice said her focus would also be to ease the humanitarian crisis after nearly two weeks of fighting between Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon and Israel Defense Forces troops.
"It is very important to establish conditions under which a ceasefire can take place. We believe that a ceasefire is urgent. It is important to have conditions that will make it also sustainable," said Rice before a refueling stop in Shannon, Ireland.
Peres: It doesn't matter who runs the international missionShimon Peres wants a "serious" international force in southern Lebanon, adding in a newspaper interview that it didn't matter who ran it as long as it removed Hezbollah missiles from Lebanon's border.
"It doesn't matter who runs the mission, it's just important that the mission is accomplished. The Lebanese army, the United Nations, NATO - as long as the Lebanese border is cleared of Hezbollah missile-launching pads," Peres told Italy's Corriere della Sera in an interview published on Monday.
"But I want a serious mission, not one like UNIFIL, the UN observers who were not disarming the terrorists," he said.
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