SECURITY COUNCIL OKS MIDEAST PEACE DEAL
By NICK WADHAMS, Associated Press Writer August 11, 2006
UNITED NATIONS - The U.N. Security Council adopted a resolution Friday that
calls for an end to the war between Israel and Hezbollah,
and authorizes 15,000 U.N. peacekeepers to help Lebanese troops take control of south Lebanon as Israel withdraws.
The resolution offers the
best chance yet for peace after more than four weeks of fighting that has killed more than 800 people, destroyed Lebanon's infrastructure, displaced hundreds of thousands of people and inflamed tensions across
the Middle East. Drafted by France and the U.S.,
it was adopted unanimously.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud
Olmert endorsed the resolution late Friday, after a day of brinksmanship including a threat to expand the ground war. Lebanon's Cabinet was to consider the draft on Saturday, but
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the Lebanese
government assured her that it supported the text.
The next point of contention
will be when to implement the cessation of hostilities. Israel
said its campaign would continue until Sunday, when its Cabinet will meet to endorse the resolution. Long columns of Israeli
tanks, troops and armored personnel carriers streamed over the border early Saturday.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he planned to meet Lebanese and Israeli
officials as soon as possible to determine the exact date of a cease-fire.
Israel on Saturday continued airstrikes in Akkar province in the
north and on Sidon and Tyre
in the south, security officials and local media said.
Rice said the "hard work
of diplomacy" was only beginning with the passage of the resolution and that it would be unrealistic to expect an immediate
end to all violence. She said the United States would increase its assistance
to Lebanon to $50 million, and demanded
other nations stop interfering in its affairs.
"Today we call upon every state, especially Iran and Syria, to respect
the sovereignty of the Lebanese government and the will of the international community," Rice told the council. Iran and Syria
back Hezbollah and supply it rockets and other weapons.
"We will now end to work
very hard," Rice told reporters afterward. "This is a first step but it is a good first step."
With tough language in remarks
before the vote, Annan said hundreds of millions of people around the world shared his frustration that the council had taken
so long to act. That inaction has "badly shaken the world's faith in its authority and integrity," he said.
"I would be remiss if I
did not tell you how profoundly disappointed I am that the council did not reach this point much, much earlier," he said.
The Security Council resolution
leaves out several key demands from both Israel and Lebanon in efforts to come up with a workable arrangement.
Despite Lebanese objections,
Israel will be allowed to continue defensive
operations — a term that Arab diplomats fear the Israeli military will interpret widely. A dispute over the Chebaa Farms
area along the Syria-Lebanon-Israel border will be left for later; and Israel
won't get its wish for an entirely new multinational force separate from the U.N. peacekeepers that have been stationed in
south Lebanon since 1978.
Lebanon's acting foreign minister, Tarek Mitri, suggested that his nation would accept the resolution though
he said its call for a cessation of fighting could not be implemented. He criticized it for allowing Israel to continue some operations.
"A cease-fire that by its
terms cannot be implemented is no cease-fire," Mitri said. "A cease-fire that retains the right for one side the right not
to cease firing is not a cease-fire."
There is also no call for
the release of Lebanese prisoners held by Israel
or a demand for the immediate withdrawal of Israeli troops. Although the draft resolution emphasizes the need for the "unconditional
release" of the two Israeli soldiers whose July 12 capture by Hezbollah sparked the conflict, that call is not included in
the list of steps required for a lasting cease-fire.
Diplomats said the negotiators'
main goal had been to come up with a draft that spells out a lasting political solution to the hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah along the Israel-Lebanon border. The
standoff has bedeviled the region for more than two decades.
"You never get a deal like
this with everybody getting everything that they want," Britain's
Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett said. "The question is, has everybody got enough for this to stick and for it to be enforceable?
Nobody wants to go back to where we were before this last episode started."
At the heart of the resolution
are two elements: It seeks an immediate halt to the fighting that began July 12 when Hezbollah militants kidnapped two Israeli
troops along the Blue Line, the U.N.-demarcated border separating Israel;
and it spells out a series of steps that would lead to a permanent cease-fire and long-term solution.
That would be done by creating
a new buffer zone in south Lebanon "free of any armed personnel, assets
and weapons other than those of the government of Lebanon
and UNIFIL" — the acronym of the U.N. force deployed in the region since 1978. The force now has 2,000 troops; the resolution
would expand it to a maximum of 15,000.
Lebanon had been under de facto control
of Hezbollah, a Shiite militia, for several years until Israeli forces occupied parts of it after the start of the fighting
last month. The political solution would include implementation of previous Security Council resolutions calling for Hezbollah's
Under the resolution, UNIFIL
would be significantly beefed up to help coordinate when 15,000 Lebanese troops deploy to the region. As Lebanese forces take
control of the south, Israeli troops would withdraw "in parallel."
Israel is chiefly concerned that Hezbollah not be allowed to regain
its strength in south Lebanon once a cessation
of hostilities goes into effect. It had originally demanded the creation of a new multinational force separate from UNIFIL,
which it claimed was powerless.
Several diplomats said UNIFIL
would essentially become so strong that it will not resemble the weaker force it once was.
The resolution gives Annan
one week to report back on how well it has been implemented. The council leaves open the possibility of another resolution
to further enhance UNIFIL's mandate and other steps to achieve a permanent cease-fire.
The draft also asks Annan
to come up with proposals within 30 days on resolving various border disputes including the one over Chebaa Farms. Lebanon had wanted a direct demand in the draft that Chebaa
Farms be put under U.N. control.
Friday's tumultuous events
began with a decision by Olmert, after consultations with his defense minister, to send troops deeper into Hezbollah territory.
Still, that order was coupled with signals from Israel
that it could halt the offensive if a cease-fire arrangement met its demands, particularly for a strong multinational force.
Diplomats at the U.N. said
the adoption of the resolution must spur them to solve the wider conflict in the Middle East, particularly between Israel and the Palestinians. The Lebanon war has overshadowed the turmoil there, caused by the capture of an Israeli
soldier on June 25.
Qatar's Foreign Minister Hamad bin Jassem Al Thani said that in the coming days Arab states would submit formal requests
for a Security Council meeting in September to hammer out a new regional peace plan.