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G8 Leaders Urge End To Mideast Hostilities

(RFE/RL) July 17, 2006 -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that leaders at the Group of Eight summit (G8) in St. Petersburg, Russia, are demanding that Hizballah release captured Israelis and stop attacks on Israel.

In comments late on July 16, Merkel said G8 leaders also want Israel to stop attacks on Lebanon. G8 leaders called for an additional observer mission in Lebanon under United Nations auspices.

The escalating conflict in the Middle East dominated the first full day of talks at the G8 summit.

The United States had been alone in emphasizing Israel's right to self-defense. But President George W. Bush today appeared to soften that stance, urging Israel to show restraint.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana arrived in Beirut today. Lebanese officials say he will meet Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.

Lebanon says Italy has relayed Israeli conditions for a cease-fire. A UN team, also in Beirut, says it supports the Lebanese government's call for a cease-fire, but also urged the release of the Israeli soldiers.

Meanwhile, the United States, France, Britain, Sweden, Poland, Belgium, and Romania were reportedly making plans on July 16 to evacuate thousands of their citizens from Lebanon.

The United States has some 25,000 citizens in Lebanon. Sweden has some 4,000 nationals there. Poland, Belgium, and Romania are organizing evacuation flights to get their citizens out. Italy and Spain have already acted to move their citizens from the country.

Also on July 16, Canadian Foreign Minister Peter MacKay said eight Canadians have been killed by Israeli air strikes in Lebanon.

Earlier reports quoting Lebanese security officials said five of those killed by Israeli air strikes in Lebanon today were dual Lebanese-Canadian citizens. The deaths reportedly occurred in the southern Lebanese town of Aitaroun.

(compiled from agency reports)