U.N. moves to resolve conflict

Israel's Olmert accepts proposal

Lebanon's response today


BEIRUT, Lebanon -- The United Nations Security Council unanimously approved a resolution yesterday aimed at resolving the conflict between Hezbollah and Israel.

The measure calls for deploying 15,000 United Nations peacekeepers in south Lebanon to help the Lebanese army take control of the area once Israeli troops withdraw. It is a victory for Lebanon, which rejected a draft resolution unveiled Aug. 5 by the United States and France, saying that it was doomed to fail because it did not require an Israeli pullout.

Lebanese and Arab negotiators also persuaded U.S. diplomats to back away from an Israeli demand for a new multinational force separate from the U.N. peacekeepers who have been stationed in south Lebanon since 1978.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert accepted the resolution and said he would recommend that his Cabinet approve it at its meeting tomorrow, according to Israeli officials.

But they said that the Israeli military would not stop attacking Lebanon until then.

Earlier in the day, as negotiations continued at the United Nations, Olmert had ordered his military to expand its invasion of south Lebanon, and thousands of additional troops were massed at the border. There were reports early today that long columns of tanks, troops and armored personnel had crossed the border.

Lebanon's government announced it would not have an official response until later today, but an official in the prime minister's office said that the plan was acceptable to Lebanon and to Hezbollah, which holds two seats in the Lebanese Cabinet.

The deal offered victories and setbacks to both Israel and Lebanon.

Despite Lebanese objections, the resolution does not call for an immediate cease-fire but for a "full cessation of hostilities." It allows Israel to continue "defensive" military operations - meaning it could respond if Hezbollah attacks it.

`Hard work'

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said approval of the resolution means that the "hard work of diplomacy" was only beginning and that it would be "unrealistic" to expect an immediate end to the fighting.

Rice demanded that other countries stop meddling in Lebanese affairs by backing Hezbollah.

"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," she told the council before its vote.

Since war broke out July 12, about 10,000 Israeli troops and hundreds of tanks have invaded Lebanon in an effort to prevent Hezbollah from firing rockets into northern Israel.

The Israeli offensive has crippled Lebanon's infrastructure and killed more than 730 Lebanese - the majority of them civilians. More than 120 Israelis have been killed, more than 80 of them soldiers.

Lebanese offer

On Monday, the Lebanese government offered to dispatch 15,000 troops to the south once Israeli forces pulled out - and the U.N. resolution calls for the Israelis to withdraw as Lebanese and U.N. forces move into the area.

Lebanon's army has not been deployed in the south since Israeli troops withdrew in May 2000 after an 18-year occupation and guerrilla war with Hezbollah.

Once fighting stops, the resolution calls on Israel and Lebanon to take a series of steps that would lead to a permanent cease-fire. It calls for eventually disarming Hezbollah, creating a buffer zone from the border up to 18 miles inside Lebanon where only the Lebanese army and UN troops would be allowed to carry weapons, and imposing an arms embargo that would allow only the Lebanese government to bring weapons into the country.

That ban, which would be enforced by U.N. peacekeepers, is meant to cut off the supply of missiles to Hezbollah from Iran and Syria.

In a victory for Israel, the resolution postpones resolving a land dispute between Israel and Lebanon over an area called Shebaa Farms.

Lebanon had asked that Israeli forces withdraw from the area and U.N. forces move in until a final solution is reached. But Israeli and U.S. officials argued that would be a triumph for Hezbollah, which has used Shebaa Farms as an excuse for keeping its arms.

The resolution also calls for the "unconditional release" of two Israeli soldiers abducted by Hezbollah on July 12.

It does not call for the release of Lebanese prisoners held by Israel, saying only that the issue must be "settled."

That could complicate the long-term cease-fire because Hezbollah leaders have vowed not to release the soldiers without a prisoner exchange.

Under the agreement, the current 2,000-member U.N. force in Lebanon, known as UNIFIL, would monitor the cease-fire and eventually would be expanded into a better-armed force with up to 15,000 troops.

Larger UNIFIL force

U.N. officials said they expect the larger UNIFIL - which would be empowered to stop attacks on northern Israel by force - to begin deploying in the south within 10 days of a cease-fire.

In one sign of the difficulties facing the U.N. force, an Israeli drone fired missiles last night into a convoy of refugees fleeing fighting in the southern town of Marjayoun, killing at least six people and wounding 16 others.

The convoy had been arranged by UNIFIL, which said it coordinated with the Israeli military.

Mohamad Bazzi writes for Newsday.


The U.N. Security Council agreed unanimously on a measure calling for a full cessation of hostilities, deployment of 30,000 Lebanese and U.N. forces in southern Lebanon and Israeli withdrawal of forces.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert accepted the resolution and said he would seek Cabinet approval tomorrow.

More Israeli ground forces started moving into southern Lebanon.

[From wire reports]

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