Minister: Conference gave permission to continue Lebanon offensive

In failing to agree on a call for an immediate Middle East ceasefire, the world has given Israel permission to press ahead with its military offensive in Lebanon, a senior Israeli cabinet minister said today.

A high-level Middle East conference in Rome yesterday ended without agreement.

Most European leaders want Israel to halt its offensive against Hezbollah guerrillas immediately while the United States is willing to give Israel more time to punish the guerrilla group.

“We received yesterday in the Rome conference permission, in effect, from the world, part of it gritting its teeth and part of it granting its blessing, to continue the operation, this war, until Hezbollah’s presence is erased in Lebanon and it is disarmed,” Justice Minister Haim Ramon told Army Radio.

Ramon is considered a confidant of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

Although top international, European and US officials agreed in the conference that urgent action is needed to stop the killing of civilians in Lebanon, no joint statement calling for a ceasefire was issued.

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