Blair to press Bush for ceasefire as churches push for peace
British Prime Minister Tony Blair is flying to Washington DC today, where it is understood that he will press President George W. Bush to move rapidly towards a Middle East ceasefire ñ following massive worldwide pressure from governments, civil society groups, churches and other faith communities.
Sources in the Foreign Office suggest that the UK government is seriously worried that the current crisis in Lebanon, which has continued for three weeks and is destroying the country, will fuel further regional instability conflict unless it is halted rapidly.
Mr Blair will be taking with him a plan for a Middle East stabilisation force and a resolution to present to the United Nations Security Council.
The National Council of Churches USA has also been urging a halt to the violence. Last week it joined 16 religious leaders calling for President Bush to ìwork with other world leaders to secure an immediate ceasefire in the violent conflict raging now between Hezbollah and Israel.î
The urgency of the request was expressed in a letter from Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP), an ecumenical group of Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox churches and religious organizations in the USA.
Meanwhile, Israeli forces launched a further 130 air attacks on targets in Lebanon last night (27 July 2006), while Hezbollah has continued a series of rocket attacks on sites in northern Israel ñ 115 on Wednesday alone.
Civilian deaths have resulted on both sides, though Israelís military capacity and impact is vastly more lethal.
Israel has also called up 15,000 reservists, indicating that it plans to continue a campaign of combined air and land operations.
Although only the US and the UK stood out against an immediate ceasefire at the recent Rome summit on the crisis, the Israeli government has claimed that the meeting gave it a green light for its aggression ñ something vigorously denied by its participants.
Strategists say that the Israeli action is failing to halt Hezbollahís own aggressive actions, and is indeed fuelling both their rocket attacks and support for the group within Lebanon ñ which was previously low.
Mr Blairís trip to the USA comes in the immediate aftermath of accusations that the Pentagon has ignored regulations governing arms trans-shipments through British civilian airports.
Arms destined for Israel and routed through Glasgow's Prestwick Airport were not shipped according to safety and security procedures established by the Civil Aviation Authority, it has been alleged.
As a result of the disclosure, which the US denies, British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett has said she is making a formal representation.
But it is thought that Mr Blair will not raise the issue directly with Mr Bush, leading to further accusations that he is behaving as a surrogate for the American government.
[Also on Ekklesia: Israel sees ceasefire hesitancy as a green light for its Lebanon bombing 27/07/06; Mennonites call on USA and Canada to pursue non-violent alternatives 27/07/06; Christian groups urge Blair to back ceasefire calls 26/07/06; South African churches propose bold Middle East conflict transformation process 26/07/06; Why violence cannot solve Lebanon or Gaza Strip showdowns 24/07/06; Christian Aid emergency appeal swings into action 24/07/06; Mennonites issue action alert on Middle East crisis 24/07/06; Middle East churches document and condemn Lebanon horror 23/07/06; US churches appeal to Bush as Israel seizes Lebanese village 23/07/06; Aid agencies say Blair must call for immediate Middle East ceasefire 22/07/06; WCC urges churches to support Middle East appeals 21/07/06; Churches redouble efforts and prayers for an end to Middle East hostilities 21/07/06; Williams laments Lebanon vicious spiral of violence 20/07/06; Gaza, Israel and Lebanon crises are imperilling Middle East security 19/07/06; Historic Galilee sites hit by rocket attacks 18/07/06; Pope condemns Lebanon raids as G8 converges and Blair blames Iran and Syria 17/07/06; Christians call for end to Lebanon violence as Israel vows revenge 16/07/06; Middle East Christians in anguish over Lebanon violence 14/07/06; Embattled Hezbollah backs Iraq 'doves of peace'; Christian warnings substantiated as Israel targets Hamas; Ex-spy wages peace on terror in the Middle East]