ISRAELI TROOP ISSUE SNARLS U.N. DRAFT
By NICK WADHAMS, Associated Press Writer August 8, 2006
UNITED NATIONS - Diplomatic
efforts to wrap up a long-awaited Security Council resolution on ending the war between Israel and Hezbollah have stumbled over the issue of an Israeli troop withdrawal from southern Lebanon, diplomats said Tuesday.
U.N. diplomats said the
issue had even opened a rift between the United States and France, the two main sponsors of the resolution,
while a visiting delegation of Arab foreign ministers insisted during a meeting of the Security Council that the resolution
include such a demand.
U.S. and French diplomats had initially hoped to adopt the draft early this week, but it now appears unlikely to be adopted
before Thursday. U.S. Ambassador John Bolton refused to comment on specifics of the negotiations but acknowledged in an interview
that differences remain.
"We're still pressing for
a vote on a resolution as early as we can, but we've got to reach agreement and there are still a lot of issues that need
to be considered," Bolton told The AP. "So, when will the vote be? It's hard to say at this
The original draft put forward
by the United States and France
made no mention of an Israeli troop withdrawal from south Lebanon,
parts of which have been occupied in efforts to rout Hezbollah.
But that issue was one of
several that were crucial for Lebanon, and France
has sought to consider that, France's
U.N. Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere said.
A Security Council diplomat,
speaking on condition of anonymity because the negotiations were secret, said that France had proposed new language mentioning an Israeli withdrawal to the Americans,
who rejected it.
"They were preferring some
other language which was a bit more subdued," said the diplomat, who downplayed fears of a major split between the French
The draft, introduced Saturday,
calls for a "full cessation of hostilities." But in a concession to Israel,
it allows Israeli forces to perform defensive operations. Some diplomats said that was essentially giving permission for Israel to remain in south Lebanon, because
Israel claims that its troops are there
to defend against attack.
De La Sabliere said Tuesday
that France was trying to take all of Lebanon's concerns into account, including the issues of a troop withdrawal and
"We have already incorporated
many of their concerns, but we are trying to incorporate more to take into account the concerns they have expressed" about
a complete cessation of hostilities and the troop withdrawal, de La Sabliere said.
"Our goal is to produce
a text that will be helpful, which will help to have the hostilities ending," he said.
The United States has been adamant, however, that Israel
must not withdraw troops before an international force — separate from the U.N. peacekeeping force now in southern Lebanon — deploys to the region.
U.S. State Department spokesman
Sean McCormack alluded to the dispute to reporters in his daily briefing on Tuesday.
"I think it's fair to say
one of the key issues remaining in the resolution is, How do you solve the following problem — not have a vacuum ...
because we don't want to end up right back where we were three weeks from now," he said.
In the council session,
Israel's U.N. Ambassador Dan Gillerman said any resolution must not create
a void in south Lebanon that Hezbollah
"We want a cease-fire, but
a cease-fire that sows the seeds of future peace, not a future conflict," Gillerman told the Council.
The Arab delegation was
to meet with U.S. and French diplomats on Wednesday morning to negotiate
over Lebanon's objections to the draft.
They argue that the draft must support a seven-point plan adopted by the Lebanese Cabinet, which includes two Hezbollah ministers.
Qatar's Foreign Minister Hamad bin Jassem Al Thani, a member of the delegation, criticized the council for having taken
little substantive action thus far in response to the war, which began when Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers on July
12 and has killed hundreds of people.
"It is most saddening that
this council stands idly by, crippled, unable to stop the bloodbath which has become the bitter daily lot of the defenseless
Lebanese people," Al Thani said.
The Lebanese plan's main
demands are for an immediate cease-fire based on Israel's withdrawal behind the U.N.-drawn boundary with Lebanon known as
the Blue Line, and to put the disputed Chebaa Farms area on the Lebanon-Syria-Israeli border under U.N. jurisdiction and beefing up the U.N. international force in southern Lebanon.
Al Thani said the U.S.-French
draft would be impossible to enforce in its current form. He stressed that it must seek both the withdrawal of Israeli troops
and the strengthening of U.N. peacekeepers already deployed in the region.
"If we adopt a resolution
without fully considering the reality of Lebanon,
we will face a civil war," Al Thani warned. "Instead of helping Lebanon
... we will destroy Lebanon."