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UN: Lebanon, Arab States Seek Changes To Draft Resolution

Arab foreign ministers held an emergency meeting on August 7 in Beirut (epa) PRAGUE, August 7, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- As violence in Lebanon continues, diplomatic efforts are focusing on passing a UN Security Council resolution capable of stopping the fighting.

On August 5 and 6, a draft resolution agreed by France and the United States was criticized by Beirut and Arab nations for not ordering the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Lebanon.

Today, Washington and Paris are expected to circulate a new draft at the UN that will take into account amendments suggested by Lebanon and other council members.

Lebanese Rejection

The French-American draft resolution was announced on August 5 as a breakthrough in diplomatic efforts to end nearly a month of fighting in Lebanon, but almost as soon as the text calling for a "full cessation of hostilities" was publicized, Lebanon dismissed it as one-sided and counterproductive.
"Our main reservations are that [the draft resolution] does not call
for the withdrawal of Israeli forces that are now in Lebanon, and this
is as if it gives them legal right to something that is illegal." Lebanese envoy

The result is that a Security Council vote on the text expected for today will now take place on August 8 at the earliest, according to diplomats, in order to consider amendments suggested by Lebanon and other nations.

"Our main reservations are that it [the draft resolution] does not call for the withdrawal of Israeli forces that are now in Lebanon, and this is as if it gives them legal right to something that is illegal," Lebanon's special envoy to the UN, Nouhad Mahmoud, told reporters on August 6.

"On the other hand, this gives the resistance also a right to hit against occupation forces and this does not facilitate matters," he added. "Secondly, the issue of Shebaa farms is not addressed properly in the text like we need it to be."

International Pressure

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and British Prime Minister Tony Blair have both urged the Security Council to pass the resolution, which calls for "immediate cessation by Hizballah of all attacks and the immediate cessation by Israel of all offensive military operations."

The draft also calls for creating a buffer zone in southern Lebanon -- which Hizballah controls and where Israeli troops are now fighting. Only Lebanese armed forces and UN-mandated international troops would be allowed in the zone.

Russia's UN ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, urged Lebanese and Arab leaders to consider the draft. "One would hope that the Lebanese government in Lebanon, generally, and in the Arab world, they give very serious reading to this draft," he said. "And I think that if they do, they will see that there is much in it that is in the interest of Lebanon and, more importantly, there is a clean-cut call for a full cessation of hostilities."

Lebanon Wants More

According to a report in "The Washington Post," Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora has proposed key changes. These include the immediate withdrawal of Israeli troops from southern Lebanon, followed by the immediate dispatch of 15,000 Lebanese soldiers to that area along with a 2,000-member international force under the United Nations.

UN peacekeepers on the road to Beirut on August 7 (epa)

Siniora was quoted as saying that such a move, to come in concert with a cease-fire, would also guarantee that no Hizballah fighters would be allowed south of the Litani River, some 25 kilometers from the border.

Rice, speaking on August 6 in Texas, said the main objective of the draft was to end the fighting. She said further concerns would be addressed in a second resolution to be passed within a week or two of the first.

"This resolution anticipates a second resolution. I think work will begin on that [second resolution] very, very quickly," she said. "People have, obviously, ideas and have been talking about it, there's been some work done. But it's not been in a setting with the United States and other parties."

As Lebanese UN envoy Mahmoud noted, Beirut also wants any resolution to call for Israel's withdrawal from the Shebaa Farms. The United Nations already recognizes that area, which is part of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, as Lebanese.

Other Lebanese leaders have said a resolution must also call on Israel to release Lebanese prisoners.

Arab foreign ministers are due to discuss the issues at an emergency meeting in Beirut today.

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