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Rice to the occasion – US taking note of mounting international pressure demanding Middle-East crisis resolution

Updated On: Jul 25, 2006

While Israel continues its onslaught on Hizbollah in southern Lebanon, the latter responds with effective guerrilla border resistance and sustained firepower into the former’s territory, prompting gridlock and rising international pressure for ceasefire.

Over the weekend, demonstrators marched in cities across the world to demand an end to Israel’s strikes on Lebanon.  Makassar, capital of Indonesia's South Sulawesi province, saw on July 23 around 3,000 people marching to the provincial parliament in protest. The Umno Youth of Malaysia held a 3,000-strong peace rally on July 21. Elsewhere, about 2,000 Turks in Istanbul chanted 'Down with Israel' and 'US get out of Mideast'. A 10,000-strong crowd declared 'No War' in Sydney, while about 7,000 paraded through London shouting 'Hands off Lebanon!'  Other cities such as Paris, Amsterdam, Warsaw and Stockholm also witnessed pressure on Israel from the public.

Responses from Indonesia – the world’s most populous Muslim nation – and Malaysia – current chair of the world's largest grouping of Islamic countries, the Organisation of the Islamic Conference – have thus far been the strongest in ASEAN. Both countries have offered to send peacekeeping troops under the auspices of the United Nations.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono wrote to UN General Secretary Kofi Annan on July 20 to express support for the formation of an international force under a UN mandate, and commitment to send “at least a battalion” to the troubled area.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi also revealed on July 23 ongoing plans to lobby the UN and influential member states to hold a special meeting to impose a ceasefire in Lebanon.

As anger rose over the deepening humanitarian crisis in Lebanon after more than 10 days of relentless shelling by Israeli forces, US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, finally flew to Beirut in the hope of brokering a “sustainable” ceasefire. Israel, who had initially dismissed the idea of a ceasefire and the deployment of UN forces to take control of Lebanon's border has softened its stand as it faces strong resistance from Hizbollah. Israel also appeared unwilling to mount a massive ground incursion to bring Hizbollah to its heels. An internationally-brokered ceasefire with strong US involvement would be the only way out of the quagmire. 

Sources:

Asia calls for Mideast intervention, mulls sending troops (Antara, 21 July 2006)

Indonesia Says It Will Do Anything For Middle East Peace (Bernama, 22 July 2006)

Asean Talks To Move On Despite World Headaches (Bernama, 22 July 2006)

Thousands of Indonesian Muslims protest Israeli offensive (Antara, 23 July 2006)

US rushes delivery of precision-guided bombs to Israel (New York Times/The Straits Times, 23 July 2006)

Abdullah Urges UN To Impose Ceasefire In Lebanon (Bernama, 23 July 2006)

US hopes to sway Syria to end alliance with Iran (Reuters/AFP/The Straits Times, 24 July 2006)

Israel not keen to mount ground attack (The Straits Times, 24 July 2006)

Protests grow over attack on Lebanon (AP/AFP/The Straits Times, 24 July 2006)

Syria to join the fight if Israeli ground troops advance (Reuters/AFP/The Straits Times, 24 July 2006)

Rice flies to Beirut. Lebanon battles rage (Straits Times Interactive, 24 July 2006)