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WORLD

G8 calls for end to Mideast strife

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ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (CNN) -- In the Russian city of St. Petersburg, the leaders of the Group of Eight economic powers issued a statement of "deepening concern" about the situation in the Middle East.

The statement noted particularly "the rising civilian casualties on all sides and damage to infrastructure," and called for an end to the violence.

The statement said the "root cause" of the conflict "is the absence of a comprehensive Middle East peace." (Watch how the G8 came up with its statement -- 1:54)

The G8 called on Israel "to exercise utmost restraint, seeking to avoid casualties among innocent civilians and damage to civilian infrastructure and to refrain from acts that would destabilize the Lebanese government."

The statement also called for the safe return of the Israeli soldiers who were abducted in Gaza and Lebanon, an end to shelling of Israeli territory, an end to Israeli military operations -- including the early withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza -- and the release of the arrested Palestinian ministers and parliamentarians.

In addition, Israel "needs to refrain from unilateral acts that could prejudice a final settlement and agree to negotiate in good faith," it said.

Despite the agreements expressed in the statement, the G8 countries are divided over who is to blame and how to move forward, with France, Russia and Italy believing Israel went too far in its actions.

The divergence in world opinion underscored the need for intervention by people who know the complexities of the region well, observers said.

In Washington, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, called on U.S. President George W. Bush to send high-level emissaries to the region to try to halt the violence.

She cited former Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton as having the stature needed to bring about positive change.

"I think it needs hands-on," she told CNN.

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