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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Australian FM stands up for Israel

WASHINGTON, July 26 (UPI) -- Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer is defending Israel against charges of randomly killing innocent civilians in its Lebanese air attacks.

Downer said that Israeli air attacks were deliberately targeting Hezbollah sites, adding that reports that children were nearly half of the 360 victims killed in Lebanon had not been proved.

Downer remarked, "It's very, very hard to establish, but obviously civilians have been killed and it is very sad when that happens."

On July 24 opposition Foreign Affairs Spokesman Kevin Rudd castigated the government's refusal to support international demands for an immediate cease-fire.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported on July 25 that Australian Prime Minister John Howard expressed satisfaction that many Australian evacuees from Lebanon had thanked the Australian government for evacuating them despite "over-the-top" political criticism.

Dismissing criticism of Israeli policies Howard said, "Israel doesn't want more territory, Israel wants the right to live in peace in their own territory."

Downer defended the government's evacuation scheme even as he admitted that the Australian embassy in Lebanon could have had inaccurate figures among the more than 7,000 Australians who registered with the embassy, of whom 3,700 wanted to leave and had already done so.

Downer stated that Howard's government was asserting itself to assist Australians leaving southern Lebanon but said, "I stress that in the volatile security environment of southern Lebanon there is no guarantee that these arrangements will be able to proceed."

Syria's ambassador to Australia Tamman Sulaiman told reporters that Canberra should pressure Israel to end its "state-sponsored terrorism" in Lebanon, noting, "I think Australia and other friends of Israel should have similar courage to ask Israel to halt its aggression against Lebanon."
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