CRAWFORD, Texas (Reuters) -President George W. Bush told Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora on Saturday that he hopes a new U.N. resolution will dismantle what he called Hizbollah’s “state within a state” in southern Lebanon.
The U.N. Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution on Friday calling for a “cessation of hostilities” in the war between Israel and Lebanon’s Hizbollah militia that has killed about 1,000 Lebanese and 123 Israelis and displaced more than 1 million people.
White House National Security spokesman Frederick Jones said Bush called Siniora and the two spoke for eight minutes about he resolution “and their common efforts to bring about a cessation of hostilities.”
It was the second time Bush had spoken to Siniora since the crisis erupted July 12. In the weeks after their July 14 conversation, Siniora repeatedly called for an immediate cease-fire but Bush resisted, saying the root causes of the conflict — namely Hizbollah’s influence — had to be addressed.
“The president stressed the need to dismantle Hizbollah’s state within a state in order to build Lebanese democracy,” Jones said. “He expressed his view that Iran and Syria were arming Hizbollah in order to exert unwanted influence over Lebanon.”
The U.N. resolution calls for an embargo on the supply of arms to militias in Lebanon.
Fighting in the region continued on Saturday, with Israel airlifting hundreds of troops into southern Lebanon. Israel promised to halt offensive operations in Lebanon on Monday.
Bush spoke on Friday to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for the first time since the war broke out.
In a written statement welcoming the U.N. resolution, Bush again blamed Hizbollah for sparking the violence last month through an “unprovoked terrorist attack” on Israel.
The resolution, negotiated by the United States and France, envisions a phased withdrawal of Israeli troops from southern Lebanon when violence subsides and 15,000 Lebanese army troops along with the U.N. peacekeepers begin to deploy.
The steps are designed to contain Hizbollah’s actions and the influence of Iran and Syria in the region, Bush said.
“This in turn will help to restore the sovereignty of Lebanon’s democratic government and help ensure security for the people of Lebanon and Israel,” he said.
“Hizbollah and its Iranian and Syrian sponsors have brought an unwanted war to the people of Lebanon and Israel, and millions have suffered as a result,” Bush said.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has said he would “establish with both parties the exact date and time” for the truce to come into force.