On Saturday, the Financial Times reported that in an interview at her home in Derby, Britain's foreign secretary, Margaret Beckett, expressed "ever greater concern" about Israel's actions in Lebanon and admitted she knows of no proof that Syria and Iran are involved in Hezbollah's attacks.[1] ...




By Daniel Dombey

Financial Times (UK)
July 22, 2006


The U.K. has warned Israel of the risks of launching a ground invasion of Lebanon as international concern mounts that the conflict in the Middle East is running out of control.

Margaret Beckett, the British foreign secretary, told the Financial Times in an interview that the "very dangerous situation" in Lebanon could be at a turning point where "a miscalculation, a mistake could have dramatic effects, and that I find deeply alarming."

"I am sure that Israel would weigh very carefully any suggestion of a ground incursion because, after all, it took them a long time to get out of Lebanon the last time they went in and it cost many lives on both sides," she said.

"This is a very dangerous situation: this could be a turning point and we must in the international community try and do everything we can to make sure that it's a turning point for the better."

She added: "I think everyone understands the position in which Israel finds itself. We have been urging caution and restraint on Israel from the beginning, and we continue to do so with ever greater concern as time goes on . . . It's got to be a durable and sustainable end to violence."

Speaking at her home in Derby, Ms. Beckett also said Western governments had no concrete proof that Iran and Syria were behind Hezbollah's attacks.

"I'm not sure that any government anywhere in the world would tell you that they've got cast-iron proof [of Iranian and Syrian involvement]," she said. "What I can tell you is that almost every government in the world shares our view."

British foreign affairs officials have expressed doubts over whether the full-scale Israeli assault has been effective in eliminating Hezbollah missiles or has served instead to radicalise Lebanese opinion. Ms. Beckett indicated guarded support for her staff.

"There are those who say . . . that the Israeli action is being ineffective in hitting Hezbollah to any significant degree, although clearly bombs are falling and things are being destroyed," she said. "Equally, there are other claims, particularly on the Israeli side, that . . . the action must continue, because is it is being effective."

She also backed Kofi Annan, the United Nations secretary-general, who has clashed with the U.S. by calling for a halt to hostilities.

"As you can see from the secretary-general, there is concern about whether Israel is succeeding in minimizing its impact on the civilian population and whether it should therefore be trying harder," she said.

Washington believes Israel should be given scope to deal with Hezbollah. But Ms. Beckett said Mr. Annan had tried to make a balanced contribution to the debate, highlighting his call for Hezbollah to allow the International Committee of the Red Cross access to kidnapped Israeli soldiers.