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Monday, August 07, 2006

U.S., France Run Into Opposition From Lebanon and Arabs on UN Resolution

The United States and France delayed action on a UN resolution aimed at ending nearly a month of fighting between Israel and Hezbollah to consider demands from Lebanon and Arab states over the withdrawal of Israeli troops.

Washington and Paris are expected to circulate a new draft Monday, taking into account some of the amendments proposed by Qatar, the only Arab nation on the Security Council, and other members, diplomats said.

Israel on Sunday asked the U.S. government to make changes in the American-French draft resolution on Lebanon, which the Security Council is slated to approve within the next few days.

Israel is also concerned about the resolution's failure to address the issue of creating an international force for Lebanon. The current draft says merely that a second resolution will be proposed at some later date to authorize deployment of such a force. This, said a senior government source, seems to indicate "there won't be an international force, because there will never be an agreement on it."

"If they're spitting blood over a declarative resolution [like the current one], just imagine what will happen when they get to a practical resolution," he said.

The Israeli requests including the following:

* Removing all mention of Shaba Farms, so as to avoid linking the cease-fire to an Israeli withdrawal from Shaba. However, government sources said that the United States is unlikely to accede to this.

* Altering the clause on preventing arms transfers to Hezbollah to make the Lebanese government explicitly responsible for preventing such transfers and to give UNIFIL, the UN Interim Force in Lebanon, a greater role in supervising the border crossings.

* Instituting an explicit international embargo on arms transfers to Hezbollah. The current draft merely calls for such an embargo to be established sometime in the future.

* Removing the reference to Israel's "offensive military operations." Israel claims that it is merely defending itself against Hezbollah's attacks.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has already announced that the resolution will be brought to a vote as is; government sources said this seems to be an effort to pressure the Lebanese government, which has already rejected the draft and is backing Hezbollah's demands.

However, the sources noted, during the Security Council debate, other countries are likely to try to alter the clauses most favorable to Israel - such as one that essentially allows Israeli troops to remain in Lebanon for the time being - to meet Lebanon's demands.

American and French representatives at the UN are pushing to expedite the approval process and said they would like to see a vote take place Monday, or Tuesday at the latest.

French ambassador to the UN Jean-Marc de la Sabliere warned that "opening the text for changes will be problematic and cause difficulties."

However, diplomats noted that the U.S. and France will not be able to ignore the reservations of key Security Council members, such as Russia and China, and will have to change or correct the wording.

Qatar, the Security Council's only Arab member, is expected to oppose a number of articles.

Lebanon urges changes to resolution

Lebanon urged the UN Security Council on Sunday to revise a draft resolution aimed at ending the Israeli-Hezbollah fighting to demand that Israel pull its forces out of the country once hostilities end and hand over its positions to UN peacekeepers.

Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said Sunday that government rejected the resolution drafted by France and the U.S. as it would allow the Israel Defense Forces to remain on Lebanese soil.

Security Council experts went over the draft for several hours Sunday and diplomats said there was a widespread feeling that it did not sufficiently take Lebanon's concerns into account. Qatar, the only Arab member of the council, introduced a host of amendments, including Lebanon's call for an Israeli withdrawal, and other council members proposed changes as well, the diplomats said.

Referring to the negative response on the part of the Lebanese government and Hezbollah, Rice said, "I know that Hezbollah said all sorts of things. I heard it all. But after the proposed resolution is approved by the Security Council, we will know who really wants to end the violence and who does not."

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