Israel-Hezbollah truce will strike blow to Syria, Iran

d51a0fa5810f44640a4455d2342b2dc5-medium.jpgWASHINGTON — U.S. President George Bush said the United Nations resolution to halt the fighting between Israel and Lebanon will stop Hezbollah from acting as a “state within a state” and deal a severe blow to the efforts of Syria and Iran to exert influence in the Middle East. 

In a statement released by the White House Saturday, Bush urged the international community to support the resolution, which could lead to a likely ceasefire on Monday, “and make every effort to bring lasting peace to the region.”

Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah said Saturday that his group will abide by the UN resolution so long as Israeli troops leave southern Lebanon.

“When the Israeli aggression stops then the reactions by the resistance will stop,” he said.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert also signaled his country’s intention to comply with the wishes of the international community in a telephone call with Bush on Friday, though that did not slow the pace of fighting.

The Lebanese cabinet, however, did meet and agree to support the resolution Saturday, something that the Israeli cabinet was expected to do on Sunday.

The resolution, passed by the UN Security Council on Friday night, will see Israel and Hezbollah pull out of southern Lebanon at the same time as Lebanese and UN troops move in to patrol the area and enforce the ceasefire.

“I would hope that within no more than a day or so that there would be a cessation of the hostilities on the ground,” U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice said in an interview with Israeli television Saturday.

Bush said the resolution “aims to end Hezbollah’s attacks on Israel and bring a halt to Israel’s offensive military operations. It also calls for an embargo on the supply of arms to militias in Lebanon … and for the disarming of Hezbollah and all other militia groups operating in Lebanon.”

He added that the resolution is designed to stop Hezbollah from acting outside the reach of the Lebanese government “and put an end to Iran and Syria’s efforts to hold the Lebanese people hostage to their own extremist agenda.”

The president said “millions have suffered” as a result of this month-long “unwanted war.”

The U.S. has been one of Israel’s most strident backers throughout the month-long conflict in the Middle East. The Bush administration has been severely criticized for, among other things, shipping weapons to Israel during the fighting, but the president has defended the actions as a means of supporting the right of a democratic country to defend itself from terrorists.

He also linked Israel’s fight against Hezbollah to the global war on terror in his weekly radio address, which focused on the arrest of two dozen people in and around London.

“The terrorists attempt to bring down airplanes full of innocent men, women and children. They kill civilians and American servicemen in Iraq and Afghanistan, and they deliberately hide behind civilians in Lebanon,” Bush said. “They are seeking to spread their totalitarian ideology.”

But that line of thinking has also earned the U.S. president new and additional critics, coming after his response to the London terror arrests.

Bush referred to “Islamic fascists” when talking about fundamentalist Muslims intent on attacking the U.S., and the comments have provoked anger and concern.

“Imagine calling people Muslim fascists?” asked Ramsey Clark, a former U.S. Attorney General under former president Lyndon Johnson, and a controversial political figure in America. “That’s telling a million, a billion, a billion-and-a-half people around the world that you’re a fascist. We insult all the other people around the world and we expect them to succumb to what we demand? They won’t.”

Speaking at a pro-Lebanon rally a stone’s throw from the White House Saturday, attended by thousands, Khalid Chahhou, from North Carolina, said Bush’s comments do not promote the U.S. government’s fight against terrorism.

“All those people here are against terrorism and we are against fascism also, so to classify Muslims and fascists, that’s unfair and unjust, and it doesn’t make America in the eyes of many Muslims respectful,” he said. “If Mr. Bush means by ‘fascists’ terrorism, then we are all against terrorism.”

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