Hezbolah, Isreal, US Condemned for Escalating Violence
July 16, 2006
Haaretz Service and News Agencies
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov has appealed to the Islamic extremist group Hezbollah to stop using "terrorist methods" and said both sides must exercise restraint. Meanwhile, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has warned that US backing of Israel is responsible for flaming tensions in the Middle East and putting the world on course toward another "Holocaust."
Russian Defense Minister Says
Hezbollah Uses 'Terrorist Methods'
Haaretz Service and News Agencies
TEL AVIV July 15, 2006) — Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov on Saturday warned that other nations could be drawn into the escalating Middle East conflict, which he called "a war that has begun."
Ivanov appealed to the Islamic extremist group Hezbollah to stop using "terrorist methods" and said both sides must exercise restraint.
"We call on Hezbollah to stop resorting to any terrorist methods including attacking neighboring states," Ivanov said.
At least 88 people have died in Lebanon, most of them civilians, in a four-day Israeli offensive sparked by Hezbollah's capture of two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid. On the Israeli side, at least 15 have been killed - four civilians and 11 soldiers.
Ivanov warned that other nations in the region could be sucked into the conflict, calling it "basically, a war that has begun." He called on both sides to quickly calm the situation.
"Both sides in the conflict must exercise extreme restraint, caution and foresee the consequences of their actions," he told reporters hours before the formal opening of the Group of Eight summit.
Hezbollah's taking of hostages and shelling of Israeli territory and Israel's response — "the use of military force in such a magnitude and against such objects as we have seen" — are unacceptable, he said, adding that only negotiations could resolve the crisis.
Russia is using its contacts with radical Muslims to try to promote a resolution, he said.
"Yes, we have contacts with the Hamas movement and we are using those contacts in order to lower the degree of confrontation and to convey our position on the unacceptability of using terrorist methods of fighting and of the necessity of diplomatic recognition of all the neighboring states," Ivanov said.
Russia hosted a high-level Hamas delegation at Putin's invitation in March, when Moscow broke ranks with other members of the so-called Quartet of Mideast negotiators but failed to persuade the militant group — which leads the government of the Palestinian Authority — to soften its anti-Israel stance and renounce its goal to seek Israel's destruction.
Chavez: US Support for Israel could Lead to Holocaust
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Friday that US backing of Israel is responsible for flaming tensions in the Middle East and putting the world on course toward another "Holocaust."
"The fundamental blame falls again on the US empire. It's the empire that armed and supported the abuses of the Israeli elite, which has invaded, abused and defied the United Nations for a long time," Chavez said in a speech during a military act in Caracas.
"I'll seize this opportunity to condemn categorically and fully the aggression that the Israeli elite is carrying out against innocents over there in the Middle East," he said.
Chavez was referring to a new explosion of Mideast violence this week as
Israel Air Force war planes began striking Lebanon after Hezbollah guerrillas captured two Israeli soldiers and killed eight others Wednesday in a cross-border raid into Israel. In response, Hezbollah has fired hundreds of rockets at northern Israel.
The Venezuelan leader charged that Israel is using excessive force.
"Are we going to bomb cities and tell them that we won't stop bombing until they return the soldier? That's crazy," he said.
"Worse, it's craziness with nuclear bombs. (The Israelis) have their weapons of mass destruction and nobody criticizes them, nobody says anything because the empire is behind them," Chavez said.
Blaming the escalation on Washington's undue influence, Chavez said: "The U.S. empire's desire to dominate has no limits and that could take this world to a real Holocaust. May God save us."
Chavez is one of the most ferocious critics of U.S. foreign policy, even though his oil-producing country remains closely tied to the United States, its top market, through billions of dollars (euros) in annual crude sales.
The White House said Friday that United States President George W. Bush would not press Israel to halt its military operation in Lebanon.
White House spokesman Tony Snow said, when asked whether Bush had agreed to a request from Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora that he rein in the Israelis, "No. The president is not going to make military decisions for Israel."
Snow told reporters that Bush had spoken by telephone to Lebanon's prime minister among other Middle East leaders.
He said Bush believed the Israelis have the right to protect themselves, but should limit "so-called collateral damage not only to facilities but also to human lives".
Snow said Siniora had suggested a cease-fire, which Washington favored, but thought would be hard to pull off.
"It is unlikely that either or both parties are going to agree to that at this juncture," Snow said.
A leading Senate Republican on Friday urged US restraint in supporting Israel's military campaign against Hezbollah, citing the problems it may cause in the war in Iraq and efforts to disarm Iran.
Senator John W. Warner, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, issued a written statement Friday calling on the Bush administration to "think through very carefully how Israel's extraordinary reaction could affect our operations in Iraq and our joint diplomatic efforts to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue.
"This is a very critical time for the U.S. in the Middle East, and the Israeli actions will certainly have an impact beyond Lebanon and Gaza," Warner warned.