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Last Updated: Sunday, 6 August 2006, 12:48 GMT 13:48 UK
Ministers support PM over Lebanon
Home Secretary John Reid
Mr Reid denied the conflict had caused a cabinet split
Tony Blair has shown leadership in his handling of the Lebanon conflict, two of his ministers have said.

The PM, criticised for not calling for an immediate ceasefire, delayed his holiday to help find a solution.

Home Secretary John Reid praised his "courage" in seeing "this struggle" through. Pensions Minister John Hutton said he had acted for the "long term".

However Tory Leader David Cameron has said Mr Blair should have described Israel's response as disproportionate.

A draft UN resolution aimed at halting fighting between Israel and Hezbollah militants in Lebanon was put forward by the US and France on Saturday.

The draft demands that Hezbollah halt all attacks and Israel stop all offensive military operations.

It would have taken more than just words of condemnation to start that process of re-establishing a proper path and trajectory towards peace
John Hutton

Last week, Mr Blair conceded there were divisions within government over his refusal to criticise Israel's military action and back calls for an immediate ceasefire.

Both Mr Reid and Mr Hutton suggested such a move would have been premature.

"Anyone who thought it was simply a matter of shouting 'Let's have a ceasefire' and the whole world would back it, including the warring parties, I think that was a rather over-simplistic view," Mr Reid told BBC News 24's Sunday programme.

Mr Reid also denied the issue had split the cabinet.

Mr Hutton said the conflict has been "deeply divisive in our country and around the world".

"What the prime minister has been trying to do is to find a way through this that brings the fighting to an end as quickly as possible and then builds for the long term.

"It would have taken more than just words of condemnation to start that process of re-establishing a proper path and trajectory towards peace and security than many people anticipated."

'Early mistakes'

But some Labour MPs - including Walsall North MP David Winnick - insist Mr Blair's initial approach was wrong and that he should have called for an immediate ceasefire.

"The government in this country should have been more critical of Israel's action," Mr Winnick said.

Mr Cameron agreed Mr Blair had made "mistakes early on" in his handling of the crisis.

"After the G8 summit, when Tony Blair came back to the House of Commons, I pressed him then to really start a concerted diplomatic initiative to get things going," he told BBC News.

It would be monstrous for any country not to take action when attacked in the way Israel has been
Gen Sir Mike Jackson

"There just seemed to be a pause when not really enough happened and the shelling continued and the rocket attacks continued and the diplomatic effort wasn't strong and consistent enough."

The prime minister should also have said Israel's response had been disproportionate, Mr Cameron added.

But he welcomed the draft UN resolution.

Meanwhile, the head of the British army, General Sir Mike Jackson, has said civilian deaths in the conflict were regrettable but Israel was justified in taking action in the first place.

"It would be monstrous for any country not to take action when attacked in the way Israel has been," he said.

"One can debate the way in which this is done, but when you have an enemy who had made a deliberate tactic in concealing themselves among the civilian population it leads to a very ugly scene."




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