US diplomacy in the Middle East is on hold as the American Secretary of State heads back to Washington without calling for an immediate ceasefire. Before leaving Condoleezza Rice urged both sides to agree quickly on conditions for a truce. Rice had been due to visit Beirut for talks with Lebanon’s Prime Minister, Fouad Siniora. But he says he told Rice that no discussions could take place after this morning’s tragedy.
“I’ve said very clearly that, really, now this is not the time – other than for the implementation of an immediate and comprehensive cease-fire. And I think this, in diplomatic words, is understood,” he said. While US efforts have stalled, there is hope a European mission could make a breakthrough. Italy’s Foreign Minister, Massimo D’Alema – who has described the Qana attack as unjustifiable – is meeting Israeli leaders to discuss how to bring a swift end to the crisis.