German Official: Attacks Hinder Lebanon's Ability to Curb Hezbollah

Published July 17, 2006

| Associated Press

Israel's bombing of Lebanon reduces the Beirut government's ability to intervene against Hezbollah and could fuel anti-Israeli feelings, a senior German official said Monday.

Deputy Foreign Minister Gernot Erler said on SWR radio Israel was following a "difficult logic," and that its military strikes risked fueling "hatred and the willingness of the other side to fight."

The bombing also weakens Lebanon's government, reducing its ability to meet Israeli demands that it move against against Hezbollah, Erler said.

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"The only option now is a cease-fire instead of endless escalation, to open a possibility for negotiations," he said.

Erler said the Middle East risked a "regional war" if Syria or Iran becomes involved in the fighting. "We stand on the edge of a very dangerous process which could lead to a regional war."

"It would certainly be hard to stop if the fighting were to spread to more neighboring countries, such as Syria or Iran, who are doubtless involved in Hezbollah's activities in the south of Lebanon," Erler said.

Also Monday, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said German authorities are still seeking official confirmation of a report that a German-Lebanese couple and their daughter were killed in an air strike last Thursday during a visit to relatives in southern Lebanon.

"We are in contact with the Lebanese authorities to obtain final clarity as soon as possible," spokesman Jens Ploetner said.

He said the family's son, who according to a report in the daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung was injured, is now with relatives and that authorities hope to bring him back to Germany soon.

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