A fateful vote on a UN Security Council Resolution calling for a cease-fire originally scheduled for Tuesday will not likely be held until Thursday, because an Arab League delegation wants to try and amend the resolution.
Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, the Qatari ambassador to the United Nations and the Arab representative to the Security Council, announced on Monday morning that a delegation representing the Arab League would address their concerns with the draft resolution to the Council on Tuesday afternoon. The delegation will include the Qatari foreign minister and Amr Moussa, the Arab League's secretary-general.
"We are not against the draft," Al-Nasser said. "But we don't want to adopt unclear language that will create domestic problems for Lebanon."
The delegation will try to convince the Security Council to abandon a paragraph in the draft resolution that would permit the IDF to remain in place in southern Lebanon after a cease-fire. Israel insists that it will not cede the ground it has covered and retreat with its 10,000 troops until a robust multinational force arrives to take its place.
The United States had hoped to get a vote on the resolution by Tuesday. With the Arab League delegation set to speak to the Security Council late Tuesday afternoon, a vote before Thursday is not foreseeable. There is a 24-hour waiting period from the moment that a resolution is formally presented and when it can be voted upon.
The decision to send the delegation was made at a meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Beirut on Tuesday.
Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora expressed Beirut's readiness to deploy Lebanese soldiers in southern Lebanon and reiterated his call for an immediate cease-fire.
The deployment of the Lebanese army south seems designed to ensure that the IDF does not remain in south Lebanon. Under the draft resolution, there was no call for the IDF to leave Lebanon until a robust international force was in place.
Saniora told the Arab ministers that he wanted to deploy Lebanese troops to the south with the support of beefed-up UN forces to ensure that the IDF leaves after any cease-fire.
Last month he came up with an initiative that called for deploying the Lebanese army in the south, but only after a cease-fire was reached and a set of political demands were met - including a release of Lebanese prisoners in Israel and steps toward resolving Lebanon's claims on border territory.
Saniora said leaving the IDF in the south was "impractical" because it was certain to mean continued fighting. Lebanese security sources said the Lebanese army had called up reservists on Monday ahead of a possible deployment of 15,000 troops in southern Lebanon.
The decision was initially described by Arab journalists in Beirut as a move designed to fight IDF troops in Lebanon. However, the sources denied the claims, saying the decision to call up reservists was a first step toward calming the situation and restoring the Lebanese government's control over that part of the country.
Though there is a consensus in the UN Security Council on the eventual political aspect of the resolution - which envisions a buffer zone in southern Lebanon controlled by a multinational force, and a solution for Shaba farms - UN officials admitted on Monday that there was a wide divide on the question of an Israeli withdrawal.
Nana Effah-Apenteng, the Ghanaian ambassador to the United Nations and the current president of the Security Council, said that the Arab and American positions were at "polar opposites."
President George W. Bush reasserted his own support for the draft resolution on Monday morning. Speaking from his ranch in Crawford, Texas, he expressed his desire for its quick passage. He also made it clear that the US was firm about its position on the need for the IDF to remain in place.
"Whatever happens in the United Nations, we must not create a vacuum into which Hizbullah and its sponsors are able to move more weaponry,'' Bush said.
US ambassador to the UN John Bolton, speaking to reporters on Monday after deliberations with the Security Council, seemed a bit bewildered by the Arab objections. He said that the details of the resolution, which Bolton composed with the French ambassador and presented on Saturday, should not have come as a surprise.
"It's not as though we drafted the resolution in a closet somewhere and suddenly sprang it on the member countries," Bolton said. "Throughout the consultation and evaluation process we have been in very close contact with the governments of Israel and Lebanon."
Bolton was also asked if he would be interested in meeting with Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah. "I have zero desire to discuss any issue with a terrorist group," he responded.
One diplomatic official said that the French were trying to explain to the Lebanese that it was in their interest to accept the resolution. The official added, however, that the French were interested in getting a unanimous decision on the resolution, which would include agreement from the Arab representative in the Security Council, Qatar.
A unanimous Security Council decision, he said, would give the resolution the weight it needed to be accepted by everyone.
In advance of the UN vote, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni met in Jerusalem Monday with most of the ambassadors of the 15 countries that make up the Security Council to state Israel's case and argue against watering down the resolution.
In Beirut, meanwhile, Saniora gave an emotional speech to the gathered foreign ministers during which he broke into tears several times.
As he spoke about the suffering of civilians, the prime minister appealed to fellow Arab states to help a nation "stunned" by devastating Israeli attacks.
"It is imperative that the Israeli enemy stops its aggressive actions and withdraw immediately, hand it [territory] over to international forces, exchange prisoners, and reveal land mine maps," he said.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia said it was considering the possibility of holding an emergency summit of Arab leaders in Mecca soon to discuss the Lebanon crisis. The announcement was made by Saudi Foreign Minister Saud Faisal after the meeting in Beirut. A previous attempt to hold an Arab summit failed because most of the Arab leaders refused to attend.