Dems to Bush: Send an envoy

    U.S. Senate Democratic leaders on Friday called on President George
    W. Bush to send a high-level special envoy to the Middle East to work
    with allies and negotiate an end to the fighting between Israel and
    Hizbollah guerrillas in Lebanon.

    Senate Democratic Leader Harry
    Reid of Nevada and Sen. Joseph Biden, the top Democrat on the Foreign
    Relations Committee, said in a letter to Bush they were “surprised”
    that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice planned only a brief stop in
    the region next week.

    “The United States needs to step forward
    and do the hard diplomatic work required to put in place a sustainable
    settlement and prevent a return to the status quo ante where Hizbollah
    attacked Israel at will,” they wrote.

    “Unfortunately, the
    architecture that you have constructed to deal with the Middle East is
    not adequate, as it does not allow for the kind of high level and
    sustained involvement that is required,” they added.

    They urged Bush to appoint a high-level envoy “without further
    delay,” adding Israel had the right to defend itself and that they
    supported Israel’s efforts to eliminate the threat posed by Hizbollah.

    announced on Friday plans to travel to the region on Sunday and attend
    an international meeting in Rome next week, saying she hoped to help
    create conditions for a lasting Middle East peace. Rice reiterated the
    U.S. position that an immediate ceasefire would not help achieve that

    © Reuters 2006