Speaking at the State Department on Friday, Rice said Hezbollah is the source of the problem in Lebanon and must be disarmed. “We must work urgently to create the conditions for stability and lasting peace,” she said.
The secretary will be visiting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Israel and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank. She will also attend a meeting in Rome of Lebanese diplomats.
“It is important to remember that the cause of the current violence was Hezbollah’s illegal attack from Lebanese territory,” she said at the news conference. “It is unacceptable to have a situation where the decision of a terrorist group can drag an entire country, even an entire region, into violence.”
Rice said Arab nations, such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan, had been critical of Hezbollah’s “provocation,” referring to the cross-border raid last week that led to the killing of three Israeli soldiers and the kidnapping of two others.
“What we’re seeing here, in a sense, is the growing — the birth pangs of a new Middle East. And whatever we do, we have to be certain that we are pushing forward to the new Middle East, not going back to the old one. ”
A framework accompanied by “some kind of international assistance, perhaps significant international assistance” must be created to “push forward” the sovereignty of the Lebanese government and the deployment of Lebanese forces in the south.
Referring to Security Council Resolution 1559, which calls for disarming and disbanding militias in Lebanon, she said: “It’s now clear why 1559 anticipates a circumstance in which you cannot have people with one foot in politics and one foot in terror.”
Hezbollah, which has claimed responsibility for terrorist acts, also operates an extensive network of social services in Lebanon, and its political wing holds seats in the Lebanese parliament.
She said the United States is working with Israel to get air and sea humanitarian corridors opened.
Israel began its assault on Hezbollah strongholds in Lebanon on July 12 after Hezbollah guerrillas kidnapped two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid and killed three others.
At least 261 people have been killed in Lebanon and 582 wounded in the strikes so far, internal security sources say. Fifteen Israeli civilians and 19 soldiers have died in attacks and fighting, Israel Defense Forces said.