View Full Version : Lebanese Tell Rice To Stay Away

08-01-2006, 08:45 AM
Lebanese tell Rice to stay away


From correspondents in Beirut
July 31, 2006

ANGRY Lebanese leaders warned US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice overnight she was not welcome in Lebanon until Israel ceases attacks after its latest strike killed at least 60 civilians, more than half of them children.

The fury of Lebanese leaders over the killing of civilians in the southern village of Qana was accompanied by a violent demonstration in which protestors attacked and broke into the UN headquarters in Beirut, shouting "Death to America".

Amid worldwide condemnation of Israel's attack, Ms Rice was due to leave Israel today to start intensive diplomacy aimed at getting a United Nations resolution to pave the way for a ceasefire.

President Emile Lahoud said Ms Rice "will think twice before coming" to Lebanon where officials had been expecting her to return a week after talks in Beirut on the crisis.

"They talk about an eye for an eye ... but this is not the case, they are killing innocent children and elderly people," said Mr Lahoud.

In a terse, angry and emotional address broadcast on television, Prime Minister Fuad Siniora said there was no place for talks until Israel ceased its attacks.

"There is no place on this sad morning for any discussion other than an immediate and unconditional ceasefire as well as an international investigation into the Israeli massacres in Lebanon now," Mr Siniora said.

"Targeting this innocent village is unacceptable."

Before chairing an emergency meeting of the Lebanese government overnight, Mr Siniora assembled foreign ambassadors, particularly those of UN Security Council members, to seek their backing for a Council call for a halt to Israeli attacks.

He said Ms Rice had called him after the Qana killings and that he told her that "this is not the time for anything other than the implementation of an immediate ceasefire".

"Now is the time for an immediate ceasefire and the Israelis should withdraw" from southern Lebanon, he said.

Mr Siniora also said it would be "normal" for Hezbollah to retaliate over Israel's Qana raid, as he hailed the sacrifices of the Shiite guerrilla group.

"It is normal. As long as the aggression continues against Lebanon, there will be retaliation," he said.

"I thank (Hezbollah leader) Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah for his efforts and I thank all those who are sacrificing their lives for Lebanon's independence," he said, referring to Hezbollah fighters.

Asked about Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's announcement that Israel needed up to two more weeks to finish its operation in Lebanon, a furious Mr Siniora replied: "What job do they want to finish? To destroy Lebanon?"

"The persistence of Israel in its heinous crimes against our civilians will not break the will of the Lebanese people," he said. "What happened in Qana was not a mistake, it is happening for the second time around, there were heavy bombardments."

"Why, we wonder, do they choose Qana again? Perhaps this time for Grapes of Hatred," Mr Siniora said.

Qana was where an Israeli bombing of a United Nations base on April 18, 1996 killed 105 people who had taken refuge during Israel's "Grapes of Wrath" offensive - also aimed at wiping out Hezbollah.

Israel launched a massive air, sea and ground offensive on Lebanon after the Shiite Muslim militia Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers at the borders on July 12 to secure a prisoners' exchange.

Mr Annan's representative in Lebanon, Geir Pedersen, meanwhile, said in a statement that he was "deeply shocked and saddened by the killing of tens of Lebanese civilians ... and calls for an immediate ceasefire and investigation".

Hezbollah MP Hussein Hajj Hassan said "Rice: you cannot come to Beirut before there is a ceasefire."

"You are not welcome because you are the one who committed the Qana massacre," he shouted as thousands of demonstrators in downtown Beirut chanted "Feltman out now!," in reference to US Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman.