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Bush caught off-guard in chat with Blair

The Middle East crisis prompted a frank exchange between President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.



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Kofi Annan
Middle East

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (CNN) -- An open microphone caught President Bush in an unguarded moment Monday as the escalating crisis in the Middle East prompted him to use an expletive in a conversation with British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Bush and Blair were aware that an event at the Group of Eight summit was a photo opportunity, with media representatives present. Blair later turned off the microphone.

The president was expressing frustration at the United Nations' stance on the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict in Lebanon. (Watch Bush use the 's' word during a chat with Blair -- 1:31)

Apparently not expecting an open mic to pick up his remarks, Bush told Blair: "See the irony is what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit and it's over."

Earlier Monday, Blair and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan called for the deployment of an international force in southern Lebanon to help end the spiraling conflict between Israel and Hezbollah, the Islamic militant group that holds seats in the Lebanese government. (Full story)

The United States and Israel say that Hezbollah receives financial and political assistance, as well as weapons and training, from Iran and Syria.

The fighting began last week after Hezbollah guerrillas abducted two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid.

"What about Kofi Annan?" Bush asked Blair. "I don't like the sequence of it. His attitude is basically cease-fire and everything else happens." (Watch Bush explain why Israel has "every right" to defend itself -- :59)

Blair responded, "I think the thing that is really difficult is you can't stop this unless you get this international presence agreed."

Bush has resisted calling for a cease-fire between Hezbollah and Israel. The United States seeks Hezbollah's dismantlement under U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559, which calls for the "disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias."

Bush said that he feels "like telling Kofi to get on the phone with [Syrian President Bashar] Assad and make something happen. We're not blaming Israel, and we're not blaming the Lebanese government."

Bush also told Blair that he would be sending Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to the region soon.

"She's going," Bush said. "I think Condi's going to go pretty soon."

Despite the president's remarks, the White House told The Associated Press that it had nothing to announce about a Rice trip to the Middle East.

Earlier Monday, Annan said the Security Council would have to discuss the matter of an international presence, but he said a force would be only a part of a comprehensive plan to stop the cross-border attacks.

Annan appealed to both sides to "focus their targets narrowly and to bear in mind that under international humanitarian law, they have an obligation to spare civilian lives" and infrastructure.

Copyright 2006 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

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