28/07/2006

Blair heads to US for Middle East talks

Prime Minister Tony Blair is heading to Washington for talks with US President George W. Bush on the Middle East.

Mr Blair is expected to push for a new UN resolution and the dispatch of an international force to Lebanon.

The Prime Minister's spokesperson said that Mr Blair wanted to "step up a gear" to achieve a ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah and would work towards a UN resolution to be passed authorising the dispatch of an international force to southern Lebanon once the fighting had stopped, by as early as next week.

Mr Blair is expected to discuss other topics during their meeting, such as Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan, although the crisis in Lebanon is expected to dominate the talks.

Britain and America have refused to call for an immediate ceasefire, which has angered Arab nations and some European countries.

The meeting also comes as relations between Britain and the US have become strained.

Earlier this week, Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett complained about the use of a Scottish airport by the US to transport bombs to Israel.

Meanwhile, In Lebanon, Israel has continued to carry out more airstrikes, with reports of people killed ranging between three and 13.

According to reports, an aid convoy was hit by an airstrike. The convoy, which was believed to have included press and civilians, was travelling to the southern Lebanese city of Tyre from the village of Rmeish, when one of the vehicles was hit.

A member of a German camera crew and the driver are understood to have been wounded.

Further ground clashes have also been reported between Israeli troops and Hezbollah fighters in Bint Jbeil, where nine Israeli soldiers were killed on Wednesday.

Hezbollah have also continued to bombard northern Israel with rockets, with reports indicating that at least three people have been injured.

It has also been reported that the United Nations are to withdraw all unarmed observers from posts in southern Lebanon.

The announcement follows the death of four UN peacekeepers in Khiam during an Israeli airstrike earlier this week.

According to the latest figures, it is believed that around 425 Lebanese and 51 Israelis have been killed since the conflict began on July 12.

Israeli launched its offensive in response to the capture of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah fighters and the deaths of eight others.

(KMcA)

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