Rice wants UN action by week's end

Peres: The minute the Hizbullah will stop firing there will be a cease-fire.

shimon peres 298.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
shimon peres 298.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stepped up her drive for an end to the conflict in Lebanon Tuesday and was now focusing on passing by the end of the week a new UN resolution that will lead to a cease-fire. Though no formal timetable for the consultation has been set yet, the US would like to see a special meeting of the UN Security Council this Friday to finalize the deal. Such a meeting would be at ministerial level and would be attended by foreign ministers of the five permanent members of the Security Council. The US did not yet submit to the members of the Security Council a new draft for a resolution on Lebanon, but diplomatic sources said that any resolution adopted would have to adhere to the basic guidelines set out by the Bush administration: an end to the rocket attacks against Israel; a prisoner swap deal that would lead to the release of the Israeli soldiers; deployment of a multinational force in southern Lebanon and an end to the Israeli air strikes and ground incursions in Lebanon. Rice will also try to reach an understanding on an international package of economic support, which would help rebuild Lebanon and would bolster the government of Fouad Saniora. "I am going to push very hard to have the UN Security Council resolution this week, I think it is time," Rice said on Monday as she was returning to Washington from the Middle East. Rice and Hadley held talks with US President George W. Bush Monday night, in order to outline the US policy for ending the war in Lebanon. Though the US diplomats were working aggressively to reach a UN resolution this week, Israeli sources said there was still no pressure on Israel to stop the military actions in Lebanon and that the administration was not demanding that Israel agree to a cease-fire before its conditions were met. Vice Premier Shimon Peres declared in Washington Tuesday that Israel would agree to an immediate cease-fire in Lebanon as soon as Hizbullah stopped firing rockets into Israel. "The minute the Hizbullah will stop firing there will be a cease-fire," Peres said in a speech at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, adding later that "if they stop shooting that will be the end of the war." Peres's statement appears to stand in contrast to the official view of the Israeli government, which conditioned any cease-fire with not only ending the rocket firing, but also changing the situation on the ground, having the Lebanese army take over the southern part of Lebanon and deploying an international force that would ensure Hizbullah did not regroup and did not receive new arms through the Syrian border and the seaports. Peres was scheduled to meet late Tuesday afternoon with Rice and with National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley and senior members of Congress. Peres said in Washington that Israel was thankful for the US supportive position in the conflict and added that he had "only thanks, no criticism" to the US administration. Peres dismissed fears that Syria would act militarily against Israel due to the conflict in Lebanon and said: "I'm not impressed by the Syrian threat. They know the weakness of their army." The vice premier criticized the insufficient action of the international community on Iran's nuclear project and said that "the only strength of Iran is the weakness of the international community."