Bush and Blair Heard Planning Approach to Israel

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Note: This piece contains mild profanity.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice intends to travel to the Middle East, amid continuing border attacks between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon. President Bush's frustration with the conflict was revealed in remarks captured by an open microphone at a luncheon.

Talking with British Prime Minister Tony Blair in St. Petersburg, Russia, President Bush was heard cursing about Syria's alleged role in helping Hezbollah in its conflict with Israel. The president said the crisis would be over if Syria would intercede with Hezbollah.

President Bush also complained about United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan's approach to the issue, saying he wants Annan to get on the phone with Syria's president rather than pressuring Israel into a ceasefire.

The United States withdrew its ambassador to Syria last year. A State Department spokesman acknowledged today that the United States has only low-level contacts with the Syrian government.

As of yet, there is no word on when Rice might head to the region. So far, the Bush administration has taken a fairly hands off approach to Israel's military campaigns, both in Lebanon and also in Gaza.

In another candid moment caught on tape, Britain's Blair said he'd be willing to go to the Middle East to lay the groundwork for Rice — because, as he put it — he can just go and talk, while Rice has to succeed.



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