WORLD / Middle East

No agreement on Mideast cease-fire
Updated: 2006-07-26 22:51

US, European and Arab officials holding crisis talks on Lebanon failed to agree Wednesday on an immediate plan to halt the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas.

Although officials called for an end to the violence, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said there cannot be a return to a "status quo" of political uncertainty and instability in Lebanon. She said any cease-fire must be "sustainable."

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, left, talks to Italian Premier Romano Prodi at La Farnesina Foreign Ministry in Rome, Wednesday, July 26, 2006. [AP]

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the solution to the Mideast crisis should involve Iran and Syria. He also called for the formation of a multinational force to help Lebanon assert its authority and implement UN resolutions that would disarm Hezbollah.

After listening to a dramatic appeal from Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora for them to stop the killing, the officials said they had agreed on the need to deploy an international force under the aegis of the United Nations in southern Lebanon.

"An international force in Lebanon should urgently be authorized under a UN mandate to support the Lebanese armed forces in providing a secure environment," Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema said - but there was no mention of who would take part or any other details.

"Participants expressed their determination to work immediately to reach, with utmost urgency, a cease-fire that puts an end to the current violence and hostilities. The cease-fire must be lasting, permanent and sustainable," D'Alema said.

He said many of the participants in the meeting appealed for an immediate and unconditional truce.

The United States and Britain opposed the push for a quick cease-fire, saying any truce should ensure that Hezbollah no longer is a threat to Israel and should ensure a durable peace.

Referring to the cease-fire, D'Alema said, "To obtain this objective, you must exercise pressure on all parties involved, directly and indirectly, on who can exercise influence on Hezbollah and on Israel."

The foreign ministers and other senior officials from the 15 nations, as well as Annan and representatives from the European Union and the World Bank, agreed on a declaration expressing "deep concern" for the many civilian casualties in Lebanon, where government officials say hundreds have been killed.

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