White House Press Secretary Tony Snow on Wednesday defended U.S. support for letting Israeli troops remain in Lebanon until a robust multinational force can back up the Lebanese army and keep Hezbollah terrorists from regaining control of the area.
The matter has divided the United States from the French, with French President Jacques Chirac suggesting it is immoral for the United States not to go along with Arab calls for an immediate cease-fire, and have the Lebanese army move in on the heels of an immediate Israeli withdrawal.
Snow made clear President Bush doesn't think that will work.
"We know at this point that we still have some work to do. Furthermore, we also know that the Lebanese army, while an absolutely essential part of any solution, is not itself independently capable of dealing with the problem, at least not yet," he told reporters outside the president's ranch in Crawford, Texas.
Israel's Security Cabinet voted to expand the war effort in an attempt to deal further blows to Hezbollah. The criticism was among the administration's strongest concerning longtime ally Israel since the fighting began.
"We are working hard now to bridge differences between the United States position and some of the positions of our allies," Snow said. "We want an end to violence and we do not want escalations."
Meanwhile, rifts over a plan to stop the fighting delayed approval of a resolution at the U.N. Security Council. The U.S. and France were offering competing versions.
France proposed new language on a total cease-fire and Israeli pullout, but the Americans rejected it out of concern that the Lebanese could not assert control over Hezbollah strongholds in the south without help from a robust international force.
"The Lebanese army, while an absolutely essential part of any solution, is not itself independently capable of dealing with the problem, at least not yet," Snow said.
He said the United States was working on another draft resolution, but he would not estimate when a vote might be possible.
"I think at this point it's beyond any of us to come up with a firm prediction about when you get a resolution," he said.
FOX News' Wendell Goler and The Associated Press contributed to this report.