Britain breaks with US over Israel's war on Lebanon

"Britain dramatically broke ranks with George Bush last night over the Lebanon crisis, publicly criticising Israel's military tactics and urging America to 'understand' the price being paid by ordinary Lebanese civilians.

"The remarks, made in Beirut by the Foreign Office minister, Kim Howells, were the first public criticism by this country of Israel's military campaign, and placed it at odds with Washington's strong support.

"The Observer can also reveal that Tony Blair voiced deep concern about the escalating violence during a private telephone conversation with the Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, last week. But sources close to Blair said Olmert had replied that Israel faced a dire security threat from the Hizbollah militia and was determined to do everything necessary to defeat it.

"Britain's shift came as Israeli tanks and warplanes pounded targets across the border in southern Lebanon yesterday ahead of an imminently expected ground offensive to clear out nearby Hizbollah positions, which have been firing dozens of rockets onto towns and cities inside Israel."

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