French FM warns of 'catastrophe' in Lebanon

21st July 2006, Comments 0 comments

BEIRUT, July 21, 2006 (AFP) - French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy warned Friday that the escalating conflict in Lebanon between Israel and Hezbollah could lead to a catastrophe and called for immediate ceasefire.

BEIRUT, July 21, 2006 (AFP) - French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy warned Friday that the escalating conflict in Lebanon between Israel and Hezbollah could lead to a catastrophe and called for immediate ceasefire.

"The situation has significantly deteriorated and there is an urgent need to help civilians," he said at a joint press conference after meeting with his Lebanese counterpart Fawzi Sallukh.

"The spiral of violence can only lead to a catastrophe," he said.

Israel launched a massive offensive on Lebanon after the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers at the borders on July 12 with the aim of securing a prisoners' swap.

Douste-Blazy, whose country holds the current presidency of the UN Security Council, called for an immediate ceasefire and humanitarian corridors to help the civilian population in Lebanon.

"We are trying to reach a ceasefire, establish humanitarian corridors and call on all parties to exert self-restraint," he said, reiterating that France has "denounced the actions of Hezbollah and the disproportionate response of Israel."

He backed the proposal by UN chief Kofi Annan for a settlement that would include the release of the two captured Israeli soldiers, an international conference on Lebanon and the deployment of a stabilization force on the Lebanon-Israel border.

Douste-Blazy denounced "attacks on the sovereignty" of Lebanon, particularly strikes on the army.

Twenty-three Lebanese army servicemen, including four officers, have been killed and 80 others wounded in Israeli air strikes on air, navy and ground bases across the country since the start of the offensive.

Douste-Blazy also called for the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1559 which demands the disarmament of militias in Lebanon and the deployment of the Lebanese army along the borders with Israel, which have been under the control of Hezbollah.

But Sallukh accused Israel of having prevented the implementation of Resolution 1559 by launching the offensive and by targeting Lebanese army bases.

The Israelis are calling for the "deployment of the army (in south Lebanon) and at the same time they are bombarding it," he said.

Ahead of his talks with Sallukh, Douste-Blazy visited a Beirut school where French nationals had gathered to be evacuated later Friday.

He was also due to meet with Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora and parliament speaker Nabih Berri during his day-long stay in Lebanon before he visits Cyprus, Egypt, Jordan and Israel.

On Monday Douste-Blazy accompanied Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin to Beirut in a show of French support for Lebanon, which has been a target of deadly Israeli attacks for 10 days.

He said France condemned the strikes as disproportionate, while also calling on Hezbollah to free its Israeli soldier captives and halt rocket attacks on Israel.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French News

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