Arab demands split French-US consensus

Officials: France has taken the side of the Arab countries and is trying to modify the resolution in their favor.

df  88 (photo credit: )
df 88
(photo credit: )
Arab objections over the details of a deal to end the fighting between Israel and Hizbullah have eroded a rare diplomatic consensus between France and the United States, the authors of the proposal. According to both French and American UN officials, France has taken the side of the Arab countries and is trying to modify the resolution in their favor. Jean-Marc de La Sabliere, France's ambassador, has presented revisions that take into account Arab concerns, but these have been rejected by the Americans as unacceptable, the officials said. The issue of who will secure southern Lebanon in the aftermath of a cease-fire remains problematic. Israel demands it be allowed to keep its forces in place. This was implied in the original version of the draft resolution. But Lebanon and the Arab League object to any agreement that does not involve an Israeli withdrawal. Lebanon also insists that its army can take control of the southern region with help from UN peacekeepers. John Bolton, the American ambassador to the UN, speaking on Wednesday morning, said he was in intense negotiations to try to arrive at an acceptable new draft of the resolution. He had just emerged from a meeting with Amr Moussa, secretary-general of the Arab League. Though there was agreement about the ultimate goal of arriving at a cease-fire and a southern Lebanon free of Hizbullah, Bolton said, the new Arab objections had undermined the progress that had been made when the draft resolution was first presented jointly by the US and France last Saturday. He said he and his French counterpart had been forced back to the drawing board. "The question now, to try and bring that resolution - however modified - to closure, to a vote, is not any easier than it was to get to the first draft," said Bolton. In their speeches on Tuesday to the UN Security Council, representatives of the Arab League voiced their rejection of any resolution that would leave Israeli troops in southern Lebanon. "The draft resolution not only falls short of meeting many of our legitimate requests, but it also may not bring about the results that the international community hopes it may achieve," said Tareq Mitri, Lebanon's acting foreign minister, addressing the council. Qatari Foreign Minister Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jabr Al-Thani went even further and said, "If we adopt resolutions without fully considering the reality of Lebanon, we will face a civil war." Israel and America, however, insist that no vacuum be created by an Israeli withdrawal. Hizbullah must not be allowed to reenter southern Lebanon and return to its positions on the Israeli border, they said, and in order to prevent this the IDF needed to remain in position until an appropriate multinational force with a mandate to counter Hizbullah could take its place. French President Jacques Chirac, speaking to reporters on Wednesday morning after an emergency meeting with his defense and foreign ministers, seemed to lend his support to the Lebanese contention. He admitted that the US and France do not "agree on everything," and that Americans had what he called "reservations" about French additions to the draft that would take into account the Arab position. France's UN ambassador also later told the Associated Press that, with regards to the Arab objections to the draft, "we are trying to incorporate more to take into account the concerns they have expressed." Still, Chirac insisted that a resolution was necessary and would be forthcoming, saying, "I can't imagine that there would be no solution because that would mean - which would be the most immoral result - that we accept the current situation and that we abandon an immediate cease-fire. I can't imagine that of the Americans or anyone else." The Lebanese proposal, which its representatives insist is supported by Hizbullah, involves the deployment of 15,000 Lebanese troops to southern Lebanon, to be backed up by a beefed-up and reinforced version of the UNIFIL mission currently in place. Israel demands that any troops that take its place be what Israel's Ambassador to the UN Dan Gillerman described on Tuesday as a "robust, effective, professional force." Gillerman also dismissed the possibility of a UN force providing stabilization. "We've had a UN blue-helmeted force in the region for 28 years, during which that force has been totally impotent and incapable of preventing any of the terror activities that happened in our region," Gillerman said. The impasse created by the two contrary positions was felt on Tuesday at the Security Council, where Arab League representatives made their case for amending the resolution and the Israeli ambassador responded. Gillerman's speech framed the conflict as a battle between forces of freedom and progress versus fundamentalism and violence, claiming that "the issue in this crisis is not territory but terror." To this, Thani responded angrily that "nobody in our region is convinced of the Israeli logic." "The resolution leaves Lebanon vulnerable to the whims of Israel," said Mitri, further dismissing the current draft. "How could it be viable? How could a resolution provide for a cessation of hostilities and then in fact carry the great risk of continued violence and destruction?"