IT'S the conventional diplomatic thing to do, smile for the cameras, but the more I studied yesterday's picture of Condoleezza Rice and Israeli premier Ehud Olmert looking as if they'd just won the lottery, the angrier I got. What on earth had they to smile about? That Mr Olmert had said Israel is determined to carry on the fight against Hezbollah? Or that Dr Rice had just whispered in Mr Olmert's ear that talk of ceasefires and an international peacekeeping force is just to give him more time to finish the job? The picture certainly did not give me the impression that Dr Rice was carrying any warning from the White House about the disproportionality of Israel's military actions. Earlier the Secretary of State had been in Beirut to say she was deeply concerned about the plight of civilians caught up in the conflict. Nice of her, but at the same time she confirmed that the US is not putting pressure on the Israelis to stop their offensive before conditions are established for a durable peace. She explained that a durable solution would be one that strengthens the forces of peace and democracy in the region. On past form achieving that outcome will take a few more decades so the civilians caught up in conflict in Lebanon and Gaza will draw their own conclusions. Will something more hopeful come out of today's high-level meeting in Rome? I rather doubt it.
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