UNSC discusses Mideast crisis

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
August 8, 2006 23:34

Qatar warns US-French draft couldn't be enforced, would only complicate matters.

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A draft Security Council resolution on ending the war between Israel and Hizbullah would only complicate the crisis and result in "grave ramifications" for Lebanon and the entire region, Qatar's foreign minister said Tuesday. Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani told the Security Council that the US-French draft would be impossible to enforce in its current form. He said it must call for the withdrawal of Israeli troops from southern Lebanon and the strengthening of UN peacekeepers already deployed in the region. "We draw the attention of our august council to the repercussions of adopting a non-enforceable resolution that would further complicate the situation on the ground and have grave ramifications for Lebanon, Arab countries and all the countries of the region," al-Thani said. Al-Thani, who led an Arab delegation that also included the chief of the Arab League and the foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates, implicitly criticized the council for having taken little substantive action thus far in response to the war, which began when Hizbullah captured two Israeli soldiers on July 12 and has killed hundreds of people. "It is most saddening that this council stands idly by, crippled, unable to stop the bloodbath which has become the bitter daily lot of the defenseless Lebanese people," al-Thani said. After weeks of negotiation, the United States and France circulated the draft on Saturday. They demanded that Hizbullah stop all attacks, and that Israel end all offensive operations. That distinction drew criticism from Lebanon, which was also angered that the resolution mentioned nothing about a timetable for Israel to withdraw from southern Lebanon. Thousands of Israeli troops have occupied the area, once under Hizbullah control, since the fighting began. The delegation that went before the council had been sent to the UN on orders from a Monday meeting of Arab foreign ministers, which hoped they could convey Lebanon's objections to the draft resolution. Earlier Tuesday, the United States and France wrangled over ways to allay Lebanon's fears that Israel would win too much from the draft. In a private meeting, the Americans and French considered two tentative proposals they hoped would both accommodate Lebanon's demands and revive diplomatic efforts to end the Israel-Hizbullah fighting. Both nations agree on one proposal: that the resolution should support Lebanon's offer Monday to deploy 15,000 troops to monitor a buffer zone in the south, once under de facto Hizbullah control and now partly occupied by Israeli troops, diplomats said. The other proposal, still in the early stages, is to deploy an international force to Chebaa Farms, a disputed area along the Lebanon-Syria-Israel border now occupied by Israeli troops, diplomats said. Lebanon had made that demand previously and was upset when the original draft resolution did not reflect it. The diplomats spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the talks. The delegation of Arab officials was expected to meet with American and French diplomats later to argue again that the draft support a seven-point plan adopted by the Lebanese Cabinet, which includes two Hizbullah ministers. It includes an immediate and comprehensive cease-fire based on Israel's withdrawal behind the Blue Line, commitments to release Lebanese and Israeli prisoners and put Shaba Farms under UN jurisdiction, extending Lebanese government authority throughout the country, beefing up the UN international force in southern Lebanon, and providing international help to rebuild Lebanon. Washington and Paris had been expected to circulate a new draft of the resolution Monday but decided to wait to hear from the Arab delegation. They could now introduce a new draft late in the day or on Wednesday. Because of Security Council rules, 24 hours must pass before a resolution can be voted on. That means any vote probably won't occur until Thursday at the earliest. Hizbullah has said it will reject any halt in fighting that leaves Israeli troops in Lebanon, and Israel has insisted it won't withdraw until it is guaranteed Hizbullah rocket fire will stop.


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