Setback for U.N. Draft Resolution On Lebanon

Beirut Objects, Seeks Immediate Cease-Fire

Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, August 11, 2006; Page A10

UNITED NATIONS, Aug. 10 -- Lebanon on Thursday raised objections to a U.S.- and French-backed draft resolution aimed at ending the fighting between Hezbollah and Israel because it does not call for an immediate cease-fire and because the proposed new international force would have a broad mandate to use military firepower.

The move complicated U.S. and French efforts to finalize negotiations on a resolution intended to set the stage for a gradual Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon. Russia's ambassador to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, expressed frustration with the slow pace of diplomacy and offered a separate resolution calling for a 72-hour humanitarian truce.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N John Bolton arrives to a meeting with his French counterpart Jean-Marc de La Sabliere, Aug. 10,  2006, in New York.
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N John Bolton arrives to a meeting with his French counterpart Jean-Marc de La Sabliere, Thursday. (David Karp - AP)
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Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora expressed concerns to Secretary General Kofi Annan about whether he could persuade Hezbollah to accept the draft resolution, according to U.N. officials. Lebanese Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh told al-Jazeera that the resolution is unacceptable because it does not resolve a number of Lebanese concerns, including Beirut's call for Israeli forces to withdraw immediately.

"Negotiations are still going on," Lebanese Chargé d'Affaires Carla Jazzar said. "No one said this resolution has been refused. It's not over yet at all," she said.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will travel to New York Friday morning to work through the final details of a U.S.-French draft resolution -- and to vote on it if agreement can be reached, a senior State Department official said.

The United States had clashed earlier this week with France over the mandate of an international force for Lebanon. But U.S. and French diplomats sounded upbeat Thursday as they worked to overcome differences over language that would choreograph Israel's gradual withdrawal from southern Lebanon and the U.N.-backed Lebanese army's deployment there.

"We're making progress, and it's entirely possible we could have a vote tomorrow," John R. Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said Thursday morning after meeting his French counterpart, Jean-Marc de La Sabliere. "We've closed some of the areas of disagreement with the French."

The threat of Israeli ground action heightened the sense of urgency in concluding weeks of contentious negotiations over a plan to end the violence. "We're pushing for a vote. [Rice] doesn't care if they have to work through the night" to prepare for a Friday vote, said a senior U.S. official. "If work needs to be done, she'll do that. If she needs to bring it to closure, she'll close. And if she only needs to vote, she'll vote."

The breakthrough in negotiations with France came after the United States dropped its demand that Israeli troops be allowed to remain in southern Lebanon until a muscular international force is in place with a tough mandate to ensure that Hezbollah could not mount attacks on Israeli towns. Washington also agreed to scrap a provision that the force be explicitly authorized to disarm Hezbollah.

The United States and France agreed to expand the existing U.N. peacekeeping force with 2,000 more soldiers and to authorize it to use force to help Beirut restore its control over southern Lebanon. The enlarged U.N. mission would be authorized to do that under a provision of the U.N. Charter, known as Chapter 7, that permits peacekeepers to use force to implement their mission.

China's deputy ambassador, Liu Zhenmin, said that "the problem is that the Lebanese they do not accept any reference to Chapter 7." Bolton and other diplomats said they will resume negotiations to try to strike a deal.

The draft resolution envisions an international force that could be close to parity with the 15,000 Lebanese troops to be deployed in the south, U.S. and French officials said. Although it will come under the auspices of the controversial U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), which has been deployed there since 1978, it will be much more muscular.

"Everyone says UNIFIL. It would be a UNIFIL force in name only. Its nature, composition and mandate would be different. It's the difference between Clark Kent and Superman," said the senior U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the ongoing diplomacy.

Israel's ambassador, Dan Gillerman, had previously derided UNIFIL as "impotent" and "useless" at restraining Hezbollah from shelling Israeli civilians. But he told Israel Channel 1 television that the new U.N. force "will be completely different from the blue helmets we know today." He said that "a number of European countries have voiced their agreement to be part of this force."

U.S. diplomats visited Siniora's Ottoman-era headquarters in Beirut several times during the day for consultations. In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the "diplomatic situation is fluid."

"We've talked about the issues of Israeli withdrawal and the timing of the Lebanese armed forces, as well as the international forces, taking over that territory," McCormack said. "It's important to get this right, because it's one thing to have words on the piece of paper and it's another thing to have those words be able to be implemented in a way that is effective and gets you to the solution that you want to get to."

McCormack said John Hillen, assistant secretary of state for political and military affairs, has consulted U.N. peacekeeping officials about the mission of such a force.

Wright reported from Washington.

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