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Friday, August 11, 2006

Lebanese PM Fuad Saniora said to support UN ceasefire text


THE UN Security Council adopted a resolution calling for an end to the fighting between Israel and Hizbollah today.

The resolution also authorises the deployment of 15,000 UN peacekeepers to help Lebanese troops take control of south Lebanon as Israel withdraws.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her counterparts from Britain, France and several other council nations voted on the draft today.

The resolution offers the best chance yet for peace after more than four weeks of war that has killed more than 800 people, destroyed Lebanon's infrastructure and inflamed tensions across the Middle East.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said hundreds of millions of people around the world shared his frustration that the council had taken so long to act.

That inaction has "badly shaken the world's faith in its authority and integrity,'' he said.

"I would be remiss if I did not tell you how profoundly disappointed I am that the council did not reach this point much, much earlier,'' he said.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert endorsed the emerging ceasefire deal after a day of dramatic brinksmanship including a threat to expand the ground war. A senior US official said Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora had assured Rice that Lebanon supports the text.

Olmert will recommend that his government approve the deal in its scheduled meeting on Sunday, but his nation's military offensive will continue for the time being, Israeli officials said. Earlier in the day, Israel ordered an expanded ground offensive in southern Lebanon, and troops massed along the border in preparation.

The zigzag reflected Israel's dilemma after a month of fighting. Israel has been unable to defeat Hizbollah by force and is concerned about growing Israeli casualties and international condemnation if the war persists.

However, Olmert also fears accepting a ceasefire deal that does not rein in the guerrillas could lead to another war and hurt him politically.

Rice said the "hard work of diplomacy'' was only beginning with the passage of the resolution and that it would be unrealistic to expect an immediate end to all violence. She said the United States would increase its assistance to Lebanon to $US50 million ($A65.24 million), and demanded other nations stop interfering in its affairs.

"Today we call upon every state, especially Iran and Syria, to respect the sovereignty of the Lebanese government and the will of the international community,'' Rice told the council.

The Security Council resolutions leaves out several key demands from both Israel and Lebanon in efforts to come up with a workable arrangement.

"You never get a deal like this with everybody getting everything that they want,'' Beckett said.

"The question is, has everybody got enough for this to stick and for it to be enforceable? Nobody wants to go back to where we were before this last episode started.''

Despite Lebanese objections, Israel will be allowed to continue defensive operations, and a dispute over the Chebaa Farms area along the Syria-Lebanon-Israel border will be left for later.

Israel won't get its wish for an entirely new multinational force separate from the UN
peacekeepers that have been stationed in south Lebanon since 1978.

There is also no call for the release of Lebanese prisoners held by Israel or a demand for the immediate withdrawal of Israeli troops.

Although the draft resolution emphasises the need for the "unconditional release'' of the two Israeli soldiers whose July 12 capture by Hizbollah sparked the conflict, that call is not included in the list of steps required for a lasting ceasefire.

The next possible contentious issue will be when to implement the cessation of hostilities. Israel said its campaign would continue until Sunday, when its Cabinet will meet to endorse the resolution; yet Qatar's Foreign Minister Hamad bin Jassem Al Thani said the resolution obligated all parties to stop hostilities once it was adopted.

Annan said he planned to meet as soon as possible to determine the exact date of a ceasefire.
Diplomats acknowledged each side would have to make sacrifices but said the negotiators' key goal had been to come up with a draft that spells out a lasting political solution to the hostilities between Israel and Hizbollah along the Israel-Lebanon border.

The standoff has bedeviled the region for more than two decades.

At the heart of the resolution are two elements: It seeks an immediate halt to the fighting that began July 12 when Hizbollah militants kidnapped two Israeli troops along the Blue Line, the UN-demarcated border separating Israel; and it spells out a series of steps that would lead to a permanent ceasefire and long-term solution.

That would be done by creating a new buffer zone in south Lebanon "free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the government of Lebanon and UNIFIL'' - the acronym of the UN force deployed in the region since 1978.

The force now has 2,000 troops; the resolution would expand it to a maximum of 15,000.

South Lebanon had been under de facto Hizbollah control for several years until Israeli forces occupied parts of it after the start of the fighting last month.

The political solution would include implementation of previous Security Council resolutions calling for Hizbollah's disarmament.

Under the resolution, UNIFIL would be significantly beefed up to help coordinate when 15,000 Lebanese troops deploy to the region.

As Lebanese forces take control of the south, Israeli troops would withdraw.

Israel is chiefly concerned that Hizbollah not be allowed to regain its strength in south Lebanon once a cessation of hostilities goes into effect. It had originally demanded the creation of a new multinational force separate from UNIFIL, which it claimed was powerless.

AP; balance of story at:,22606,20101722-5006301,00.html

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