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Bush Says Confronting Hizballah Key to Peace

U.S. President George W. Bush (right) and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, pictured in May (epa) July 22, 2006 -- In his weekly radio address today, President Bush said the way to end the conflict in Lebanon is to confront Hizballah and its backers, Syria and Iran. That, he said, would be the message U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice would take to the Middle East on July 23.

The intense fighting in Lebanon between Israel and Hizballah militants has led to international calls for an immediate cease-fire. But Washington has insisted that it is primarily interested in ensuring a lasting and sustainable end to the violence.

Bush said that Rice would make it clear during her visit that the way to resolve the crisis is by "confronting the terrorist group that launched the attacks and the nations that support it."

Rice is to visit Israel and the Palestinian territories and to join Arab officials, including some from Lebanon, at an international conference on the crisis in Rome on July 26.

Bush said Hizballah had jeopardized Lebanon's advances and betrayed its people. He also called on Israel to use the "greatest possible care" to avoid civilian casualties and said the U.S. would join efforts to provide humanitarian aid to the Lebanese government.

Bush today conferred with Turkey's prime minister, Tayyip Erdogan, about how to help Lebanese civilians caught up in the conflict between Israel and Hizballah and Rice's upcoming visit to the Middle East.

Bush and Rice will also meet with Saudi Arabia's foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, on July 23.

Prince Saud also plans to visit Britain and Russia in a bid to defuse the crisis.

(AFP, Reuters, dpa)