Olmert: No hurry to agree ceasefire

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The Independent Online

The Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said today that Israel would not rush into a ceasefire to end 19 days of fighting in southern Lebanon until it achieves its goals there.

"I think it needs to be clear that Israel is not in a hurry to have a cease-fire before we reach a situation in which we can say that we achieved the central goals that we set down for ourselves," Olmert said before Israel's weekly Cabinet meeting.

"This requires a ripening of the diplomatic process and a specific agreement regarding the formation of the force that will operate from the areas from which Israel was threatened in this period."

Israeli officials have said they want to crush the Hizbollah guerrilla group that controls southern Lebanon or at least push it away from the border, which then would be patrolled by a sizable international peace-keeping force.

* The US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called off a trip to Lebanon today after the Lebanese government asked her not to come.

Lebanese officials said the request was made after dozens of civilians were killed in an Israeli airstrike on the Lebanon village of Qana. She had been expected to arrive in Beirut from Israel later today to discuss an overall peace package and Lebanon's own proposals to end the fighting.

Officials travelling with Rice said her trip had been tentatively planned but was never certain.