US President George W. Bush yesterday called for quick deployment of an international force to help uphold the fragile truce in Lebanon, saying: "The need is urgent."
"The international community must now designate the leadership of this new international force, give it robust rules of engagement and deploy it as quickly as possible to secure the peace," he told a news conference.
He also said there would be another UN resolution setting the rules of engagement clear for the peacekeeping force.
"There will be another resolution coming into the United Nations giving further instructions to the international force. First things first will be to get the rules of engagement clear," he said.
Turning to Iraq, Bush said that if the government there fails, it could turn Iraq into a "safe haven for terrorists and extremists" and give them revenues from oil sales.
"I hear a lot of talk about civil war. I'm concerned about that, of course, and I've talked to a lot of people about it. And what I've found from my talks are that the Iraqis want a unified country. And that the Iraqi leadership is determined to thwart the efforts of the extremists and the radicals," he said.
Bush opened yesterday's news conference with a statement about humanitarian aid for Lebanon and the international peacekeeping force for southern Lebanon.
It was his first full scale news conference since July 7 in Chicago and was held in the White House conference center, the temporary quarters for reporters during a renovation of the media briefing room in the West Wing of the White House.
"Fancy digs you've got here," Bush said.
On the Israeli-Lebanon issue, he said the international force would help keep Hezbollah from acting as a "state within a state."
"The United States will do our part," Bush said.
While the US does not plan to contribute troops, it will help logistical support, command and control help and intelligence.
He said the US was pledging an additional US$230 million to help the Lebanese rebuild their homes.
On Iran, Bush said the US is getting some inkling of Tehran's response to international calls for it to abandon its nuclear ambitions.
"We are beginning to get some indication, but we'll wait until they have a formal response," Bush said. "Dates are fine, but what really matters is will. And one of the things I will continue to remind our friends and allies is the danger of a nuclear-armed Iran."