By Gerry J. Gilmore
WASHINGTON, Aug. 21, 2006 – The United States will provide funding and other assistance to support a U.N. plan to end warfare between Lebanon-based Hezbollah guerrillas and Israel, President Bush said here today. Recently passed U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701 has authorized a 15,000-strong international force to deploy as a buffer between Israel and Hezbollah. A brokered cease-fire has reduced fighting between the two antagonists after they fought a month-long trans-border battle using rockets, mortars and ground troops.
"America will do our part. We will assist the new international force with logistical support, command and control, communications and intelligence," Bush told White House reporters. "Lebanon, Israel and our allies agree that this would be the most effective contribution we can make at this time." The deployment of the international peacekeepers, Bush said, will also facilitate delivery of much-needed humanitarian aid to Lebanese and Israeli civilians who'd been caught in the crossfire.
Bush said the United States already has distributed more than half of its $50 million pledge of disaster relief for the Lebanese people who've lost their homes during the conflict. And, 25,000 tons of U.S. wheat will be delivered to Lebanon in coming weeks, the president added. America will provide additional aid to support humanitarian and reconstruction work in Lebanon, Bush said, for a total of more than $230 million. These funds, he said, will be used to rebuild Lebanese homes, schools, roads and bridges.
The president said he's also proposing an additional $42 million to be used to help equip and train the Lebanese armed forces. Bush said he'd also work with the U.S. Congress to secure loan guarantees to help rebuild Israel infrastructure that was destroyed or damaged by Hezbollah rockets during the war.
America is helping the people of Lebanon because all people deserve to live in a free, open society that respects the rights of all citizens, Bush said. Hezbollah is a radical Islamic militia group that's backed by Syria and Iran, who both are pledged to destroy Israel.
The conflict was touched off when Hezbollah operatives kidnapped an Israeli soldier. Syria-backed Hezbollah claims to be Lebanon's the true military organization. The Lebanese army is considered ineffective and riddled with Hezbollah supporters. "We reject the killing of innocents to achieve a radical and violent agenda," Bush said.
Hezbollah's leaders and their sponsors, Syria and Iran, "are working to thwart the efforts of Lebanese people," Bush said, "to break free from foreign domination and build their own democratic future." The terrorists would like Lebanon to become a satellite of Islamic fascism and a base of operations from which to continue deadly attacks on Israel. However, "the Lebanese people have made it clear they want to live in freedom, Bush said, "and now it's up to their friends and allies to help them do so."