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Israeli soldiers patrolling near the border with Lebanon on July 18 (epa) July 19, 2006 -- U.S. President George W. Bush has accused Iran and Syria of "inspiring" Hizballah attacks on Israel, and says Syria appears to be using the current crisis to reestablish its hold over Lebanon.


"Everybody abhors the loss of innocent life," Bush said at the White House on July 18. "On the other hand, what we recognize is that the root cause of the problem is Hizballah. And that problem must be addressed. And it can be addressed internationally by making it clear to Syria that they've got to stop their support to Hizballah. Syria's trying to get back into Lebanon, it looks like to me."


Bush said he believed U.S. ally Israel was acting in self-defense, but urged Israel to avoid actions that could cause the collapse of the Lebanese government.


The United States has been reluctant to join international calls for an immediate cease-fire in the Middle East, instead urging Syria and Iran, Hizballah's key supporters, to use their influence to persuade Hizballah to halt rocket fire at Israel and return two captured Israeli soldiers.


Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on July 18 accused Iran of helping coordinate Hizballah's capture of two Israeli soldiers last week in a bid to distract attention from the contested Iranian nuclear program.


(compiled from agency reports)

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