Arabs warn draft resolution would only complicate crisis

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — A draft Security Council resolution on ending the war between Israel and Hizbollah would only complicate the crisis and result in “grave ramifications” for Lebanon and the entire region, Qatar’s foreign minister said Tuesday.

Hamad Ben Jassem Al Thani, head of an Arab delegation appearing before the council, said the US-French draft would be impossible to enforce in its current form. He said it must call for the withdrawal of Israeli troops from southern Lebanon and the strengthening of UN peacekeepers already deployed in the region.

“We draw the attention of our august council to the repercussions of adopting a non-enforceable resolution that would further complicate the situation on the ground and have grave ramifications for Lebanon, Arab countries and all the countries of the region,” Al Thani said.

Al Thani, whose delegation also included the chief of the Arab League and the foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates, implicitly criticised the council for having taken little substantive action thus far in response to the war, which began when Hizbollah captured two Israeli soldiers on July 12 and has killed hundreds of people.

“It is most saddening that this council stands idly by, crippled, unable to stop the bloodbath which has become the bitter daily lot of the defenceless Lebanese people,” Al Thani said.

After weeks of negotiation, the United States and France circulated the draft on Saturday that called for a “full cessation of hostilities” — in particular that Hizbollah stop all attacks, and that Israel end all offensive operations.

That distinction drew criticism from Lebanon, which was also angered that the resolution mentioned nothing about a timetable for Israel to withdraw from southern Lebanon.

Thousands of Israeli troops have occupied the area, once under Hizbollah control, since the fighting began.

The delegation that went before the council had been sent to the UN on orders from a Monday meeting of Arab foreign ministers, which hoped they could convey Lebanon’s objections to the draft resolution.

The delegation of Arab officials was expected to meet with American and French diplomats later to argue again that the draft support a seven-point plan adopted by the Lebanese Cabinet, which includes two Hizbollah ministers.

It includes an immediate and comprehensive cease-fire based on Israel’s withdrawal behind the Blue Line, commitments to release Lebanese and Israeli prisoners and put Sheeba Farms under UN jurisdiction, extending Lebanese government authority throughout the country, beefing up the UN international force in southern Lebanon, and providing international help to rebuild Lebanon.

“We are all here to find a way out,” said Tarek Mitri, sent to the UN as a special envoy by the Lebanese Cabinet. “The proposal of our government … should be looked at as a viable option. It allows the true effective cessation of hostilities, it leads to a durable ceseafre.” Israel’s UN Ambassador Dan Gillerman said any resolution must not create a void in south Lebanon that Hizbollah could fill. He also sought a robust international force to back Lebanese troops in the area.

“We want a ceasefire, but a ceasefire that sows the seeds of future peace, not a future conflict,” said Gillerman.

Earlier Tuesday, the United States and France wrangled over ways to allay Lebanon’s fears that Israel would win too much from the draft. In a private meeting, the Americans and French considered two tentative proposals they hoped would both accommodate Lebanon’s demands and revive diplomatic efforts to end the Israel-Hizbollah fighting.

Both nations agree on one proposal: That the resolution should support Lebanon’s offer Monday to deploy 15,000 troops to monitor a buffer zone in the south, once under de facto Hizbollah control and now partly occupied by Israeli troops, diplomats said.

The other proposal, still in the early stages, is to deploy an international force to Sheeba Farms, a disputed area along the Lebanon-Syria-Israel border now occupied by Israeli troops, diplomats said. Lebanon had made that demand previously and was upset when the original draft resolution did not reflect it.

The diplomats spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak publicly about the talks.

Washington and Paris had been expected to circulate a new draft of the resolution Monday but decided to wait to hear from the Arab delegation. They could now introduce a new draft late in the day or on Wednesday.

Because of Security Council rules, 24 hours must pass before a resolution can be voted on. That means any vote probably won’t occur until Thursday at the earliest.

Hizbollah has said it will reject any halt in fighting that leaves Israeli troops in Lebanon, and Israel has insisted it won’t withdraw until it is guaranteed Hizbollah rocket fire will stop.

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