Bloomberg: U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair joined President George W. Bush in blaming Iran and Syria for violence in the Middle East, raising pressure on the two nations during a fifth day of Israeli attacks in Lebanon.
July 16 (Bloomberg) — U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair joined President George W. Bush in blaming Iran and Syria for violence in the Middle East, raising pressure on the two nations during a fifth day of Israeli attacks in Lebanon.
“There are those in the region, notably Iran and Syria, who do not want this process of democratization and negotiation to succeed,” Blair said today after a meeting with Bush in St. Petersburg, Russia during the Group of Eight summit. “There has been a real hesitation to put the real truth of this situation.”
In previous days, Blair had avoided apportioning blame for the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah fighters in southern Lebanon, urging both sides to halt the violence. Today, he said Iran and Syria were backing “extremists” in the region who want to derail efforts to strengthen democracy in Lebanon.
The comments lend support to Bush, who alone among G-8 leaders meeting in Russia has named Iran and Syria as the underlying cause of the dispute. In Lebanon, Israeli planes struck targets dozens of times while Hezbollah launched rockets into southern Israel.
“Our message to Israel is to defend yourself, but be mindful of the consequences,” Bush said at a joint press conference with Blair. “We’re urging restraint.”
Bush said the fighting is “a moment of clarification,” because it focuses attention on terrorist groups trying to disrupt Israel’s attempt to reach a peace accord with the Palestinians.
French President Jacques Chirac called for all sides to show moderation and work toward a cease-fire.
“We call for the protection of the civil population and a moderation in this regard, with the creation of a lasting cease- fire,” Chirac told journalists before a meeting with Bush. Chirac said he and Bush have an approach to the current Middle East crisis that is “relatively the same.”