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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

US blames Iran, Syria for Hizbollah capture

ROSTOCK, Germany (Reuters) - The White House on Wednesday demanded the immediate release of two Israeli soldiers captured by Lebanon's Hizbollah guerrillas and blamed Syria and Iran for the attacks.

"We condemn in the strongest terms Hizbollah's unprovoked attack on Israel and the kidnapping of the two Israeli soldiers," said Frederick Jones, spokesman with the White House National Security Council.

"We call for immediate and unconditional release of the two soldiers," Jones told reporters in Germany, hours before President George W. Bush was to arrive for meetings with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

"We also hold Syria and Iran, which directly support Hizbollah, responsible for this attack and for the ensuing violence," Jones said.

Hizbollah, which is backed by Syria and Iran, captured two Israeli soldiers and killed up to seven Israelis on Wednesday, in what Israel described as an act of war by Lebanon that would draw a "very painful" response.

Hizbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said the two soldiers had been seized to force Israel to release prisoners.

Israel mobilised a reserve infantry division and Hizbollah declared an all-out military alert.

Jones said the attacks were aimed at exacerbating Middle East tensions. He underscored U.S. concerns about Hizbollah's role in Lebanon.

"Hizbollah terrorism is not in Lebanon's interests," Jones said. "This attack demonstrates that Hizbollah's continued impunity to arm itself and carry out operations from Lebanese territory is a direct threat to the security of the Lebanese people and the sovereignty of the Lebanese government."
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