|France floats new cease-fire resolution at Security Council
|France circulated a revised UN resolution Thursday calling for an immediate cessation of hostilities in Lebanon and spelling of the conditions for a permanent cease-fire and lasting solution to the current crisis. The move came as Jordan's King Abdullah II rebuked Israel for its offensive, saying it had turned Hizbullah into heroes, amid renewed regional calls for the US to support an unconditional and immediate cease-fire.
France's UN envoy, Jean-Marc de La Sabliere, told reporters he was not as optimistic as he was on Wednesday about the adoption of a resolution in the coming days, though he said: "I think we are making progress, I would say real progress."
However, "yesterday [Wednesday] morning I was confident that we could have a resolution adopted in the coming days, but by the end of the day I was less confident," he said as he prepared for a day of direct talks with US Ambassador John Bolton. "I hope that today [Thursday] it will be a positive day, that I will be again more confident."
British Premier Tony Blair Thursday predicted a resolution "within the next few days."
"The purpose of that will be to bring about an immediate cease-fire and then put in place the conditions for the international force to come in support of the Lebanese government," he told a news conference.
Calling it a "very critical time," Blair said differences over the resolution were very slight.
In a message sent to the US leader on Wednesday, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak "reviewed the dangerous situation in Lebanon and its consequences on the situation in the Middle
East and asked the United States to take rapid action for an immediate, total and unconditional cease-fire," the official Middle East News Agency said.
Jordan's Abdullah, another staunch US ally, said the rise of guerrilla groups such as Hizbullah stemmed from Israel's reluctance to give up Arab territory occupied in 1967 in return for lasting peace. "They [Israelis] want to destroy Hizbullah by tanks and air force. Peace comes by returning occupied territory and setting up a Palestinian state," he said, adding Israel's onslaught had given a boost to radicals fighting to end occupation of Arab land.
"The war will not solve anything and Arab peoples see now in Hizbullah a hero facing aggression and defending their land," he told Al-Ghad and Al-Rai dailies in an interview released by the state news agency Petra.
He also said the US should move quickly to end the Arab-Israeli conflict to regain its credibility among ordinary Arabs.
The new French text is only slightly changed from the earlier version it distributed to the Security Council on Sunday.
It still calls for an "immediate cessation of hostilities" but also demands "full respect" of the Blue Line by both sides.
It calls for the disarming of Hizbullah, for Israel to give the UN the maps of land mines it has left in Southern Lebanon and for the implementation of a 1949 armistice agreement between Israel and Lebanon.
The Blue Line dates from the 1949 armistice agreement, one of many signed by Israel at the time to end the Arab-Israeli war.
The text also allows for an international force to be sent into Southern Lebanon.
The French view is that Israel, Lebanon and Hizbullah must accept an outline for a political accord before an international force can be sent to Lebanon, said de La Sabliere.
"We need a commitment of the parties on these main parameters, and then the international force will deploy," he said.
Negotiators have been looking at the option of beefing up the UN peacekeeping mission already in Southern Lebanon to enforce an end to the fighting until a more robust international force can be formed.
But Israeli Premier Ehud Olmert said in an interview with the Financial Times newspaper Israel would reserve the right to respond to any aggression, even after an international force had been deployed.
The Daily Star