France, U.S. present draft resolution on Lebanon war


UNITED NATIONS -- France and the United States reached agreement yesterday on a Security Council resolution to halt the war in Lebanon, as the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah raged for a 25th day.

The draft resolution, which could come up for a vote early this week, called for a truce, asked the current U.N. peacekeeping force to monitor the border area and laid out a plan for a permanent cease-fire and political settlement.

The text called for "immediate cessation of all attacks by Hezbollah," and of "offensive military operations" by Israel.

But it did not include a prisoner exchange or require Israel to immediately withdraw from Lebanon, which raised dissent among members of the Security Council as they met yesterday afternoon to consider the text.

Nouhad Mahmoud, a Lebanese Foreign Ministry official, said, "It lacks a call for the withdrawal of Israeli forces who are now in Lebanon, and that's a recipe for more confrontation."

Nassir al-Nasser, the Qatari ambassador who is the Arab representative on the council, said, "What about the Lebanese prisoners? We need more clarification on these points."

Yesterday, Israel mounted a commando raid in Tyre and kept up heavy airstrikes, and Hezbollah unleashed a flurry of deadly rocket fire into northern Israel.

The draft resolution was agreed on after a week of intense meetings between the French ambassador, Jean-Marc de la Sabliere, and John R. Bolton, the U.S. ambassador.

Despite the negative reactions of some other ambassadors, both said they were encouraged after the Security Council meeting yesterday.

"My reaction," de la Sabliere said, "is that the text has been well received and their reaction is positive."

Bolton said, "I didn't hear anything that was particularly discouraging."

A senior Bush administration official, asked about the dissenting comments, said that Washington had been in constant and close contact with the Lebanese government throughout the days of talks.

"They should not be surprised by what we produced today," he said, asking not to be identified since he had been a participant in the high-level talks.

In Beirut, the Lebanese Cabinet met for more than four hours to discuss the resolution, but there was no public statement afterward. Aides to key political figures and Western diplomats based there expressed doubt that Hezbollah or the government, which negotiators relied on to communicate to Hezbollah, would accept the resolution in its present form.

The accord envisaged a second resolution, to create a new international force to patrol a zone between the "Blue Line" at the Lebanese-Israeli border and the Litani River to keep it free of all military personnel and weapons, except those of the Lebanese army and U.N.-mandated forces.

That resolution would also set established borders for Lebanon, including in the disputed Shebaa Farms area, lay out the procedure for disarming Hezbollah, order an international embargo on arms shipments into Lebanon and empower the Lebanese military to extend its authority throughout Lebanon, particularly in areas in the south controlled by Hezbollah.

De la Sabliere estimated it would take two to three weeks to prepare the second resolution.

Judging by the comments of ambassadors emerging from the council meeting yesterday, the resolution is days away from a vote. Nana Effah-Apenteng, the ambassador of Ghana, who is the council president for August, said the envoys would be sending the text to their capitals overnight to get instructions, and might gather again today to discuss it further.

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