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Bush: 'Israel Has Right to Defend Itself'


President Bush has criticized Hezbollah for sparking the latest outburst of Middle East violence, saying Israel has the right to defend itself.

Mr. Bush and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, appearing together at a news conference in Germany Thursday, called for a "de-escalation" of the current round of violence.

Mr. Bush says the latest fighting was triggered by "terrorists who want to stop the advance of peace." He stressed the importance of strengthening democracy in Lebanon and expressed concern that Israeli bombing of Beirut airport could weaken the government of Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora.

Mr. Bush noted the close ties between Syria and Hezbollah as well as the Palestinian terrorist movement Hamas and called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to show some leadership toward peace.

On North Korea, Mr. Bush said the United States remains committed to multi-national talks aimed at ending Pyongyang's nuclear program. He said he hopes the U.N. Security Council takes action in response to North Korea's missile tests last week.

Mr. Bush and his wife, Laura, were greeted with applause by a crowd of well-wishers during a welcoming ceremony this morning in the town of Stralsund, on Germany's Baltic coast in Chancellor Merkel's home state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.

Mr. Bush leaves Germany Friday for St. Petersburg, where he will meet privately with Russian President Vladimir Putin ahead of the G-8 summit.

Information for this report is provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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