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Harper Backs Israel [Canadian Prime Minister comments.]
The Hamilton Spectator (Ontario, Canada) ^ | 14JUL06 | The Hamilton Spectator

Posted on 07/13/2006 11:26:50 PM PDT by familyop

Responsibility for the escalating violence in the Middle East rests entirely with those who have kidnapped Israeli soldiers, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said yesterday.

Harper, on his first major international foray, hadn't even touched down in Europe yesterday before aligning himself firmly with the United States and Israel in the latest conflagration.

Earlier, U.S. President George W. Bush laid the blame for the violence squarely on the militant Islamic group, Hezbollah, calling it a "group of terrorists who want to stop the advance of peace."

And at the United Nations Security Council, the U.S. vetoed an Arab-backed resolution demanding Israel halt its two-week-old offensive in the Gaza Strip.

The support for Israel wasn't universal. The European Union criticized Israel for a "disproportionate use of force" in Lebanon while Russia warned Israel against a dangerous escalation of the Mideast conflict.

The Arab League called an emergency meeting of foreign ministers in Cairo on Saturday, while the Lebanese cabinet urged the UN Security Council to intervene.

Secretary General Kofi Annan planned to send three veteran UN officials to the Middle East to try to defuse the crisis.

Moderate Arab governments reacted with relative restraint, apparently reflecting a sentiment in Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia that the Lebanon-based Hezbollah -- and by implication its top ally Syria -- had started the fight with Israel.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said Israel had information Hezbollah was trying to transfer the two captured soldiers to Iran, which also backs Hezbollah, a report labelled "nonsense" by the Iranian Foreign Ministry.

Meanwhile, Israel intensified its attacks against Lebanon yesterday, imposing a naval blockade, twice hitting Beirut's airport and blasting two Lebanese army airbases near Syria. Hezbollah fired more than 100 rockets into Israel, which said that one also struck the port city of Haifa.

No injuries were reported in Haifa, home to 270,000 residents and a major oil refinery 20 kilometres south of the border. But two days of violence left at least 57 people dead on both sides of the border, most of them in Lebanon.

Israel's army chief Brigadier-General Dan Halutz warned that "nothing is safe" in Lebanon and said Beirut itself -- particularly Hezbollah offices and residences -- would be a target.

The Israeli warnings of more attacks caused panic in Beirut, and many people stayed home from work. Long lines formed at gas stations and supermarkets. The violence reverberated throughout the region and oil prices settled at a new high of $76.70 US a barrel.

The crisis began with a Hezbollah raid on Israel that resulted in the capture of two Israeli soldiers. Israel is demanding their release and that of another soldier who has been held for two weeks by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip. In both cases, the abductors are demanding negotiations on the release of Arab prisoners held by Israel.

"Israel has the right to defend itself," Harper told reporters yesterday aboard a Canadian Forces Airbus en route to London, where he's starting a week-long diplomatic mission.

"I think Israel's response under the circumstances has been measured."

Israeli military incursions into Lebanon following the soldiers' abduction threatened to toss the volatile region into full-scale war.

While many countries are urging restraint, Harper said "the onus to end this escalation is on the other side, and I would urge them to return the prisoners.

"It's essential that Hezbollah and Hamas release their Israeli prisoners and any countries in that area that have influence on these organizations should encourage an end to violence and recognize -- and encourage the recognition of -- Israel's right to exist."

He said he found it "tremendously disappointing" that Palestinian organizations are launching attacks on Israel from a territory that Israel "voluntarily evacuated." The Israeli army withdrew from Lebanon in 2000.

Harper refused to be drawn into assessing whether Israel's military incursion into Lebanon -- including the bombing of Beirut airport -- is too much, responding only that "Israel has the right to defend itself."

Meanwhile, the National Council on Canada-Arab Relations issued a statement in Ottawa calling on Harper to use Canada's diplomatic ties to demand an immediate cessation of Israeli attacks against Lebanon.

"The implications of the widening conflict engulfing Lebanon, Syria, Israel and the Palestinians will result in far-reaching consequences that will prevent any chances of peace in the region," the council said.

Harper's unabashed pro-Israel stance, is sure to prove divisive at the G8 summit this weekend in St. Petersburg, Russia, which anchors Harper's first major overseas foray as prime minister.

Russia and France have both criticized Israel for using disproportionate force in its attacks on Lebanon. The EU also called Israel's naval blockade cutting off supply routes to Lebanon unjustified.

In addition to leaders of the U.S., France, Italy and Japan -- which along with Canada, Germany and Russia comprise the G8 -- Harper will be crossing paths with leaders from Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa during a G8 outreach session on Monday.

The summit comes at a particularly volatile time. Besides the Israeli-Lebanon conflict, nuclear brinkmanship in Iran and North Korea, terrorist strikes in Mumbai, India, and the ongoing insurgencies in Afghanistan and Iraq are making this one of the hottest summers in geopolitics in several years.

Between the crisis discussions, the G8 leaders are supposed to examine global energy security and pandemic preparedness.

TOPICS: Extended News; Foreign Affairs; News/Current Events; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: canada; canadian; harper; israel; minister; rime; stephen

1 posted on 07/13/2006 11:26:52 PM PDT by familyop
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To: SJackson; Alouette
2 posted on 07/13/2006 11:28:40 PM PDT by familyop ("Either you're with us, or you're with the terrorists." --President Bush)
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To: familyop
Secretary General Kofi Annan planned to send three veteran UN officials to the Middle East to try to defuse the crisis.

Oh, yeah; that'll work. May as well kiss those three guys good-bye. And, BTW, kudos to PM Harper for coming out on the right side of this.

3 posted on 07/14/2006 12:11:18 AM PDT by hsalaw
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To: hsalaw

I'm with you. KUDOs to PM Harper. It's nice to see people starting to point their fingers in the right direction. Sorta like this:

"The people who are responsible for terrorist attacks are the terrorists." - Tony Blair

4 posted on 07/14/2006 4:00:50 AM PDT by beachn4fun (The FR Canteen ~ FReeping 24/7/365 to honor our military, allies, and their families.)
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