LETTER : Lebanon: `pusillanimous' reaction of politicians

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Sir: As a Parliamentary visitor to Qana at the time that the shelling started nine days ago I welcome your condemnation of the utterly disproportionate Israeli response to Hizbollah with its inevitable result ("Israel must call off the killing", 19 April).

In their desire to see the election of Shimon Peres, the West blatantly refuses to understand why Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri will not and, at this stage, cannot silence Hizbollah. The occupation of south Lebanon is illegal under international law. Hizbollah has parliamentary representation, and their support, inevitably, thrives under military attack. The dominant Syrians together with Mr Hariri remain confident that they will be able to exercise that control once Israel has withdrawn from Lebanese territory. It is only on this basis that peace can be achieved.

As Britain voted for the original Security Council resolution it is sad to see British politicians so pusillanimous in upholding it. Moral outrage combined with excessive understanding of the Israeli position amounts to acquiescence to a deliberate attack on a UN base which was a known refuge. It is not sufficient to condemn the loss of life - for who could disagree with that? Condemnation of Israel for the reckless irresponsibility of their action in Qana, their contempt for the UN shown in the preparedness to kill UN troops and their whole Grapes of Wrath strategy would be more appropriate.

Can we ever again suggest that Government or, indeed, Parliament takes an even-handed view of Middle East issues?

John Gunnell MP

(Morley & Leeds South, Lab)

House of Commons

London SW1