Reuters: Iran must stop supporting armed groups trying to derail democracies in Iraq and Lebanon, President George W. Bush said on Monday, casting the war between Israel and Hizbollah guerrillas as part of a wider struggle against terrorism.
By Tabassum Zakaria
WASHINGTON, Aug 14 (Reuters) – Iran must stop supporting armed groups trying to derail democracies in Iraq and Lebanon, President George W. Bush said on Monday, casting the war between Israel and Hizbollah guerrillas as part of a wider struggle against terrorism.
As a fragile truce took hold in southern Lebanon, Bush again squarely blamed Hizbollah for provoking the month-long conflict and said the group had suffered defeat.
His comments after meeting foreign policy advisers came after Hizbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah claimed his guerrillas had achieved a “strategic and historic victory” over Israel.
Bush has repeatedly blamed Iran and Syria for supporting Hizbollah in Lebanon, and on Monday called on Tehran to back off from supporting armed groups in both Iraq and Lebanon.
“In both these countries, Iran is backing armed groups in the hope of stopping democracy from taking hold,” Bush said, drawing the region with a broad brush to support his stance that militant groups are intent on blocking U.S. efforts to encourage fledgling democracies.
“The message of this administration is clear. America will stay on the offensive against al Qaeda. Iran must stop its support for terror, and the leaders of these armed groups must make a choice. If they want to participate in the political life of their countries, they must disarm.”
The U.N.-brokered cessation of hostilities came after about 1,100 people in Lebanon and 156 Israelis were killed in the conflict. While Israel says around 530 Hizbollah guerrillas were killed, Hizbollah has acknowledged only about 80 fighters killed.
The U.N. Security Council resolution calls for an embargo on the supply of arms to Hizbollah and other militia groups in Lebanon. The White House acknowledged earlier that disarming Hizbollah would take time.
(Additional Reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky)