PUSHKIN, Russia – Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday called on all sides in Middle East fighting to end bloodshed immediately.
"No hostage-takings are acceptable ... but neither is the use of full-scale force in response to these, even if unlawful, actions," Putin said. "We will demand that all sides involved in the conflict immediately stop the bloodshed."
Putin made his comment at a meeting of young people from the Group of Eight countries, a "junior summit" timed to coincide with this weekend's meeting of G8 leaders. One of the participants asked for Putin's reaction to the Israeli bombing of Lebanon.
"Any military actions are connected with the loss of human life. It is always a tragedy. And if there is a possibility to find a way out of this problem without resorting to violence, this must be the starting point," Putin responded.
"All the sides that are involved in the conflict must immediately cease military action."
Putin said he would discuss the situation in the Middle East with U.S. President George W. Bush during a dinner on Friday, and with the leaders of the other G8 countries at the summit on Saturday.
Israel on Friday widened its offensive on Lebanon, with fighter bombers blasting the airport for a second day and residential buildings in the southern suburbs of the capital.
Lebanese guerrillas retaliated by firing Katyusha rockets into two settlements in northern Israel.
More than 50 people have been killed since Wednesday, when Israel began retaliating for the capture of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah guerrillas in a raid across the southern Lebanese border.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said the situation in Lebanon would be included on the official G8 summit agenda, and that Russian special envoy Sergei Yakovlev would travel to the Middle East.
"The conflict is quickly growing into a large-scale military confrontation capable of leading to difficult consequences for the Middle East and the world community," the ministry said in a statement.
The ministry said Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had spoken with the Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora and Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit in an effort to stop the fighting.