Libano: Siniora dice a C. Rice di non poter andare a Beirut finchè la tregua non sarà assicurata
"As long as the aggression continues there is response to be exercised," he said when asked about a Hizbullah threat to retaliate for the Qana massacre.
But Siniora said the best way out of what he described as an "untenable situation" was a permanent cease-fire.
Hizbullah said through its Al-Manar television station that "the massacre at Qana will not go unanswered."
Siniora also praised Hizbullah fighters and their leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah. "We highly appreciate his [Nasrallah's] stance and those who are sacrificing their lives for the sake of Lebanon," Siniora said.
Siniora said he telephoned UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, urging him to convene an emergency meeting of the Security Council and arrange for an immediate cease-fire.
The strike in Qana, the single deadliest attack in 19 days of warfare, threatened to at least temporarily disrupt US attempts to put together a broad package to end the crisis.
Siniora said Lebanon remains committed to the seven-point plan he proposed in a Rome conference last week that earned praise from Rice. But he insisted his plan could only be discussed after a cease-fire was secured.
"We will not negotiate until the Israeli war stops shedding the blood of innocent people," he said. "If there was a cease-fire we would have saved ourselves, and Israel, this horrible crime, this crime against humanity, this terrorism at its worst."
Rice had been scheduled to meet Siniora Sunday, but was told by the prime minister that there was nothing to talk about until a cease-fire is put in place: "She called me this morning and I told her clearly 'there is no other time than now to call for an immediate cease-fire."
Siniora later held a joint conference with Speaker Nabih Berri, during which both officials said Lebanon would only discuss an immediate cease-fire and not a full peace package.
But Rice said from Jerusalem - where she met with Israeli Premier Ehud Olmert - that she had cancelled her visit to Beirut to press Israel for a cease-fire.
"In the wake of the tragedy that the people and the government of Lebanon are dealing with today, I have decided to postpone my discussion in Beirut," Rice said. "In any case, my work today is here."
Siniora also summoned the foreign diplomatic corps to urge the envoys to push their governments to secure an immediate cease-fire. US Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman did not attend.
Rice said she was "deeply saddened by the terrible loss of innocent life." The White House issued a statement Sunday urging Israel to use restraint, but continued to resist mounting calls for an immediate cease-fire. e continue to urge the Israeli government to exercise the utmost care so as to avoid any civilian casualties. This tragic incident shows why this is so critical," said White House spokesman Blair Jones.
Olmert said his military had warned Qana residents to leave the town ahead of the impending bombardment. "All the residents were warned and told to leave. No one was ordered to fire on civilians and we have no policy of killing innocent people," Olmert said.
Many Southern villagers have not fled because roads and bridges have been bombed, fuel is scarce. Olmert claimed Qana is a main launch site for Hizbullah rockets, but residents denied the presence of any Hizbullah posts in the village.
French President Jacques Chirac and Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi called for a "reaction" by the Security Council, Chirac's office said. France circulated a draft resolution at the council calling for an immediate cease-fire and proposing terms for a settlement of the conflict. French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin is expected in Lebanon Monday to hold discussions with the government. -