Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Biden Says U.S. to Keep on Supporting Lebanon Institutions, 1701 Implementation to Disarm Hizbullah

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday stressed the persistence of Washington in supporting Lebanon's institutions and working on the implementation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701 "to stop the flow of arms to Hizbullah."
Speaking at Tel Aviv University, Biden said that Hizbullah's weapons represent a threat to both "Israel and Lebanese civilians."
The vice president described Iran as the greatest threat to the region due to its alleged nuclear program and sponsoring of Hizbullah.

On the other hand, Biden confirmed that Washington will send a new ambassador to Syria to enhance diplomatic relations. However, he called for keeping an eye on Damascus' acts that may jeopardize "the security of Israel and the region."

Biden implored Israelis and Palestinians to move beyond a diplomatic spat that has marred his trip to the region, urging the sides to waste no time in resolving their decades-old conflict despite daunting obstacles.
Biden used conciliatory language as he wrapped up a three-day visit to the area in an apparent attempt to get past the uproar sparked by an Israeli plan for new settlement construction in disputed east Jerusalem.
The Israeli announcement -- seen as a slap in the face to Biden -- drew a sharp condemnation from the vice president as well as a Palestinian threat to withdraw from U.S.-mediated peace talks before they even begin.
The 22-nation Arab League, which gave Abbas the backing to resume talks with Israel, has recommended withdrawing support for indirect talks in the wake of the Israeli settlement plan.
Biden's speech appeared aimed at not letting the row with Israel derail the Obama administration's latest drive for Mideast peace. However, the vice president's effusive praise for the Jewish state — saying the U.S. has "no better friend" than Israel — could disappoint those who had hoped he would talk tougher in the wake of the new settlement plan.
Biden said the sides must get down to the business of making peace.
"To end this historic conflict, both sides must be historically bold," Biden said. "If each waits stubbornly ... this will go on for an eternity."
In his speech, Biden outlined the contours of what the U.S. believes should be a final settlement. He said a Palestinian state must be based on the pre-1967 borders, with some modifications and strong guarantees for Israel's security.
Biden listed what he believes to be reminders of Israel's security concerns: The strength of Hizbullah guerrillas to Israel's north in Lebanon, the Hamas presence in Gaza, the continued captivity of an Israeli soldier in Gaza, and "ongoing Palestinian incitement against Israel."
(Naharnet-AP) Beirut, Updated 11 Mar 10, 17:48