Olmert, meeting Rice, vows to press Hizbollah war JULY.24.2006


Israel - Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Tuesday he was determined to pursue Israel's offensive against Hizbollah as he met U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to discuss the war in Lebanon.We are using the basic elementary right of self defense. Olmert said alongside Rice in remarks before they held talks. Amid mounting international concern at civilian casualties, Rice met Lebanese leaders in bomb-battered Beirut on Monday. She unveiled truce proposals there similar to Israel's demand for Hizbollah to pull back from the border to allow an international force to deploy, Lebanese politicians said."A durable solution will be one that strengthens the forces of peace and democracy in the region," Rice said with Olmert."It is time for a new Middle East. It is time to say to those who do not want a new Middle East that we will prevail. On the battlefield, Israeli forces seized the key Hizbollah stronghold of Bint Jbeil inside southern Lebanon after fierce clashes with guerrillas in the town, Israel Radio reported. Both an army spokesman and Hizbollah's Manar TV said fighting was still going on. An Israeli air strike killed a family of seven, Lebanese security sources said. Hizbollah said five guerrillas died in the past two days. Israel reported two soldiers killed on Monday but said it had inflicted dozens of casualties on Hizbollah .A total of 390 people in Lebanon and 41 Israelis have been killed in the conflict, ignited by Hizbollah's capture of two Israeli soldiers on July 12.While saying she has no plan for Middle East shuttle diplomacy, Rice's schedule this week resembles just that. She arrived in Jerusalem after her trip to Beirut and will also visit Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.Rice has made clear she is not seeking a quick ceasefire and that any solution should address the root causes of the conflict -- for which Washington and Israel blame Hizbollah and its backers in Iran and Syria.Israel's army, which has also waged a military campaign in Gaza since June 28 to recover a soldier seized by Palestinian militants, believed it may have a week to keep pounding Hizbollah before a deal was reached, security sources said.The heaviest fighting has been taking place around the town of Bint Jbeil. Israeli forces seized nearby another stronghold, the village of Maroun al-Ras, last week.