Rice Rocks Beirut


The secretary of state has paid a surprise visit to Lebanon, meeting with the prime minister and the speaker of the parliament:

[Assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs C. David] Welch said Rice's delegation came away from the meetings quite struck by the extent of the humanitarian crisis in Lebanon and the depth of emotion about it.

According to a Lebanese political source quoted by Reuters news agency, Rice told Berri, the speaker of the Lebanese parliament and a strong ally of Syria, that the situation on the Israeli-Lebanese border "cannot return to what it was before July 12." She referred to the date on which fighters of the radical Shiite Hezbollah organization, which is supported by Syria and Iran, crossed into Israel, killed three Israeli soldiers and abducted two others, triggering the current crisis.

The Lebanese source, describing the meeting's tone as "very negative," said Rice told Berri there would be no cease-fire before Hezbollah freed the soldiers unconditionally and pulled its forces back at least 12 miles from the border, Reuters reported.

Welch said the meeting with Berri was quite emotional, but he said it was "unfair" to characterize it as negative.

Nothing will come of it, but it seems like a smart move, one I didn't see coming.