US, France differ over terms of UN resolution

France announced it will not participate in Thursday's scheduled UNSC discussion on makeup of multinational force.

john bolton 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
john bolton 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
The US and France have not yet reached an agreement on a UN resolution to end the fighting in Lebanon. After intense informal negotiations at the UN on Wednesday, they are still in dispute over the phases of a cease-fire resolution, though diplomatic sources have reported progress in the talks. The French approach supports a two-stage solution - first a UN resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire and only then a second resolution defining the responsibilities and the structure of the new multinational force which will be deployed in southern Lebanon and a framework for a political solution among Israel, Lebanon and Hizbullah. The US, on the other hand, prefers one comprehensive resolution which will set the conditions for a cease-fire and at the same time resolve all surrounding issues regarding the multinational force. The US does not want to include any provision that may be seen as pressuring Israel to reach a political arrangement with Lebanon. The dispute between US and France over the proposed resolution has led to a French announcement that it will not participate in Thursday's scheduled Security Council discussion on the makeup of the multinational force. UN sources said Wednesday that if the informal consultations lead to any kind of understanding between the US and France, the French will agree to take part in Thursday's discussion. US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton tried on Wednesday to play down the differences with France, saying that "what we are talking about now is something that will certainly set up the framework for the larger political foundation for a sustainable cease-fire, but the precise way that this will be done, how many resolutions will be involved, remains to be seen. Things are changing on the ground also." Security Council members were also deliberating Wednesday, in informal consultations, the question of the interim force which will be deployed in Lebanon before the multinational force is ready to take over. The US, according to sources close to the discussions, tends to object to the idea of reinforcing UNIFIL's mandate and giving the UN force greater responsibilities for the interim period. Another suggestion floating is to send in a French rapid response force to control the region until the permanent multinational force is ready. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made it clear Tuesday that time is running out and a solution to the Lebanese crisis needs to be reached rapidly. In an interview on PBS Tuesday evening, Rice stressed that a cease-fire should be a matter of "days, not weeks," openly contradicting statements by Israeli leaders that Israel will need more than a week to achieve its military goals in Lebanon.