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Bush, Blair to Discuss Mideast Crisis


President Bush is meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair at the White House Friday for talks focusing on the escalating conflict between Israel and Lebanon's Hezbollah guerrillas.

A British spokesman says Mr. Blair is planning to seek a United Nations Security Council resolution as early as next week to defuse the crisis.

Both President Bush and Prime Minister Blair have come under international criticism for refusing to join world-wide calls for an immediate cease-fire.

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says she remains ready to return to the Middle East to help bring an end to the conflict between Israel and Lebanon's Hezbollah guerrillas.

But she did not say when she would make that trip. Speaking in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur Friday, Rice said first she wants to confer with top U.S. envoys who are holding talks in the region.

On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council expressed shock and distress at Israel's bombing of a U.N. post that killed four military observers in southern Lebanon earlier this week.

However, upon U.S. resistance, the draft proposed by China stopped short of condemning Israel for the attack.

In Brussels, a U.S. State Department official is holding talks with European Union and NATO officials to discuss the possible creation of a new peacekeeping force for southern Lebanon.

There was broad agreement at this week's emergency meeting in Rome on the need for such a force, but no apparent progress in determining which countries would participate.

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