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Rice ceasefire plan 'rejected'

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,19904270-23109,00.html Rice ceasefire plan rejected From correspondents in Beirut July 25, 2006 LEBANESE
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 24, 2006

      Rice ceasefire plan 'rejected'
      From correspondents in Beirut
      July 25, 2006

      LEBANESE parliamentary speaker Nabih Berri today
      rejected a ceasefire proposal by US Secretary of State
      Condoleezza Rice aimed at ending Israel's war on
      Hezbollah, an aide to the Lebanese official said.

      A meeting between Rice and Berri, who is acting as an
      intermediary for the Shiite Muslim Hezbollah group,
      was marked by "differences," a source close to Mr
      Berri said after the surprise visit to Beirut by the
      top US diplomat.

      "There was no agreement because Rice insisted on a
      mechanism on a global settlement before a ceasefire,"
      the source said on condition of anonymity.

      "Rice set, as conditions for a ceasefire, the
      withdrawal of Hezbollah to the Litani river and the
      deployment of an international force in the area which
      would, she said, allow the return of displaced

      The Litani river is about 20km from the border with
      Israel, marking an area that is largely under the
      control of Hezbollah.

      Mr Berri, a veteran Shiite politician, had called for
      a ceasefire to be followed by a prisoner exchange and
      for Israel to allow the return of Lebanese who had
      fled the south "before discussing a complete plan to
      resolve the conflict."

      Ms Rice had refused to discuss an exchange of
      prisoners, the source said.

      But US Middle East envoy David Welch, said suggestions
      that the meeting was not a success were unfair.

      "This gentleman is the ranking Shia of the Lebanese
      Government," he said as Ms Rice flew to Israel after
      her five-hour stop in Beirut.

      "He spoke with much more emotion about the problem,
      (than other Lebanese leaders)" he said, adding that
      many of Mr Berri's fellow Shiite Muslims were facing
      difficult conditions in southern Lebanon.

      Hezbollah has demanded the release of Arab prisoners
      held in Israeli jails in return for two soldiers it
      captured in a deadly border raid on July 12 that
      triggered Israel's massive offensive on Lebanon.

      Asked by reporters travelling with Rice about the
      reported plan for some sort of buffer zone, Mr Welch
      said: "I am not going to go into that."

      In an earlier meeting, Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad
      Siniora angrily attacked Israel for its relentless
      bombing campaign which has claimed mainly civilian

      "Israeli aggression is not only targeting Hezbollah
      but Lebanon itself, sending it back 50 years with its
      bombardment," he told Ms Rice.

      Mr Siniora cited more than 350 deaths in Lebanon since
      the start of the campaign and some 1500 wounded, a
      statement issued by his office said.
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