France, US at odds on UN resolution changes

Chirac: Giving up push for immediate cease-fire would be "most immoral" response possible.

chirac interview 298 88 (photo credit: AP [file])
chirac interview 298 88
(photo credit: AP [file])
French President Jacques Chirac appealed to the United States on Wednesday to speed up its response to Arab nations' demands for changes to a UN resolution on ending the Middle East crisis. Caught between American and Arab allies and keen to rescue the diplomatic effort, the French president said that giving up the push for an immediate Middle East cease-fire would be the "most immoral" response. Chirac interrupted his vacation in southern France to attend an urgent meeting on Lebanon with three Cabinet ministers. The French-US diplomatic deadlock came as Israel was considering expanding its offensive. "The most immoral of solutions would be to accept the current situation and give up on an immediate cease-fire," Chirac said at a news conference. Chirac said a joint US-French draft UN Security Council resolution on ending the conflict should take into account Lebanese and Arab demands for changes - but did not specify which ones. The United States and France appeared to be at odds over how to respond to Lebanese and Arab demands for changes. Both countries welcomed Lebanon's announcement Monday that it would deploy 15,000 soldiers to southern Lebanon as soon as Israel withdrew from the Hizbullah stronghold. France, however, has proposed new language on a total cease-fire and Israeli pullout that has apparently been a sticking point. French officials believed that before a proposed international force was deployed in the Hizbullah strongholds of southern Lebanon, there should be an intermediate step - reinforcing the existing UN peacekeeping mission so it could better back up the Lebanese troops. But the United States has rejected France's proposal out of concern that without a brand-new, more robust force in place, a vacuum would be created in Hizbullah territory. Chirac said the Americans "apparently have reservations" about France's proposed changes to the draft. He also said that French and US officials were in contact daily on how to resolve the conflict. "That doesn't mean that we agree on everything," he said. "But we are in permanent contact."