NY Times
U.N. Council Backs Measure to Halt War in Lebanon
Sat Aug 12, 2006 02:12
 
The Cease-Fire
U.N. Council Backs Measure to Halt War in Lebanon
By WARREN HOGE and STEVEN ERLANGER, NY Times, 08/12/06
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/12/world/middleeast/12nations.html?ref=middleeast


UNITED NATIONS, Aug. 11 — The Security Council agreed unanimously on Friday on a measure calling for a full cessation of hostilities in Lebanon, deploying 30,000 Lebanese and United Nations forces in southern Lebanon and calling upon Israel to withdraw its forces “in parallel.”

After rejecting earlier versions, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel accepted the resolution. But, under a deal an Israeli official said was approved by the United States, Mr. Olmert will wait until Sunday to obtain his cabinet’s approval. Until then, he will expand his monthlong military campaign against the Hezbollah militia and its rocket arsenal.

Mr. Olmert’s decision to accept the draft and yet continue with a stepped-up military offensive capped an evening of diplomatic brinksmanship and political gamesmanship that may help him deflect criticism of his handling of the war, castigated as tentative by the opposition and some in his own party.

Secretary General Kofi Annan said he would be in touch with the Lebanese and Israeli governments this weekend to determine when the full cessation of hostilities would take effect.

Mr. Olmert called President Bush to thank him for his help in “safeguarding Israel’s interests in the Security Council,” an Israeli official said. Fred Jones, spokesman of the National Security Council, said it was the leaders’ first conversation since the conflict started on July 12.

The Security Council resolution, drafted by France and the United States, expands the existing 2,000-member United Nations peacekeeping force, known as Unifil, to 15,000 and dispatches it into southern Lebanon to assist a 15,000-member Lebanese force that Fouad Siniora, Lebanon’s prime minister, has pledged to send there.

In addition, the resolution gives Unifil, a peace-monitoring force that has long been criticized as ineffective and lacking resources, greatly enhanced authority, equipment, responsibilities and scope of operation.

The resolution calls for a ban on all sales or other supply of arms to Lebanon, except as authorized by its government. Israel has interpreted this as preventing Hezbollah from being resupplied with weapons by Syria and Iran.

The measure also calls for the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon, a reference to Hezbollah, but it does not specify how this should be done. The language of the resolution calls for an immediate cessation of “all attacks” by Hezbollah but only of “all offensive military operations” by Israel.

The resolution does not define “offensive military action,” but both American and Israeli officials said that Israel would be able to address threats to citizens in Israel and its armed forces in Lebanon, and that it could respond to attacks from Hezbollah. If faced with an imminent threat, a senior American official said, “then yes, Israel can respond.” Nonetheless, she added, “We expect a large-scale reduction in violence, and we’d expect the large-scale bombing to stop.”

More columns of Israeli ground forces, supported by armor, started moving into southern Lebanon Friday evening, while forces already inside, in a strip about five miles from the border, prepared to move forward to the Litani River and beyond.

Most of Hezbollah’s thousands of rockets are short-range Katyushas. Pushing Hezbollah beyond the Litani would take most of Israel’s cities out of range, and would make it easier for an international force to take up positions in the south, Israeli officials argued.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, Mark Regev, said Mr. Olmert ordered the army “to act against Hezbollah strongholds in southern Lebanon from which the Israeli population continues to be bombarded by endless volleys of rockets and missiles.”

On Friday, more than 120 Hezbollah rockets landed in northern Israel, where most residents have either evacuated or remain in shelters, and seven people were wounded. One Israeli soldier was killed.

The United Nations resolution extends Unifil’s mandate by a year and empowers it to take action “to insure that its area of operations is not utilized for hostile activities of any kind” and “to resist attempts by forceful means to prevent if from discharging its duties.”

It also urges countries to contribute troops to the beefed-up Unifil, and diplomats said that France, Australia, Italy and Turkey were among those expected to do so. Mr. Bush has said that the United States will offer no troops but that it could contribute logistical assistance.

The zone for the new joint force extends from the border of Israel and Lebanon — the so-called blue line — to the Litani River, roughly 15 miles to the north. That zone would be declared free of all “armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the government of Lebanon and Unifil.”

Israel and the United States had been insisting on the most robust international force possible out of concern that Hezbollah would take advantage of any truce to move back into southern Lebanon, the area it has controlled for years and uses to send rockets into Israel.

Earlier drafts of the French-American resolution had specified that the force be created under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, which calls for enforcement by military means.

Lebanon protested that decision, and Jean-Marc de la Sablière, the French ambassador, and John R. Bolton, the American ambassador, redrafted the resolution Thursday night to eliminate references to Chapter VII and replace them with the language of the less coercive Chapter VI.

The phased withdrawal and deployment approach was also a compromise to meet earlier Lebanese complaints that would have permitted the Israeli military to remain in southern Lebanon.

A senior State Department official speaking at a briefing under a condition of anonymity said the revised text had “all the characteristics of a Chapter VII resolution. It walks like, talks like and acts like a Chapter VII resolution.”

The language change will not be popular with Israel and its supporters, but the American official said the force “will be able to defend itself and has a very strong mandate which you would see in a Chapter VII resolution.”

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who was at the United Nations on Friday, received assurances from Tzipi Livni, Israel’s foreign minister, that Israel would support the accord, according to the senior State Department official. Ms. Rice spoke to Ms. Livni three times Friday and once to Mr. Olmert, the official said.

The Americans had resisted earlier calls for cease-fires, arguing that one without political guarantees would simply return Lebanon to the situation it was in, allowing Hezbollah to resume attacks on Israel.

A senior administration official in Crawford, Tex., where Mr. Bush is on vacation, said that it increasingly seemed that Israel would not be able to achieve a military victory, a realization that led the Americans to get behind a cease-fire.

The Lebanese are also likely to be unhappy with the resolution’s failure to order Israel to relinquish control of Shebaa Farms, an area of the border that it seized in 1967 and that, while declared to be part of Syria by the United Nations, is claimed by Lebanon.

The resolution simply asks the secretary general to develop ideas on how to solve the dispute and report back on his findings in 30 days.

The resolution does not order the return of abducted Israeli soldiers, an original reason Israel cited for going to war, nor does it meet Hezbollah requests for release of prisoners held by Israel. The measure says it is “mindful of the sensitivity of the issue of prisoners and encouraging of the efforts aimed at urgently settling the issue of the Lebanese prisoners detained in Israel.”

It was unclear how the resolution would be greeted by the Israeli public.

Maj. Dan Itin, a reservist who is a tank company commander, fought in Lebanon in 1993 and 1994. He runs a currency exchange business near Netanya. “I’m happy with any U.N. resolution that will bring quiet to Israel,” he said before it was passed. “I would prefer to go home. But if that doesn’t happen, then we’ll have to go in and do it. We want to finish the job. We don’t want to come back in two years. I don’t want my kids living with rockets for years to come.”

Opinion polls, taken before details of the proposed Security Council resolution emerged, showed eroding public support in Israel for Mr. Olmert, a career politician who did not have significant military command experience. In a poll taken for the newspaper Haaretz, 30 percent of respondents said that Israel was not winning the war and 43 percent said there was no winner or loser. Only 20 percent thought Israel was winning.

The poll was conducted on Wednesday among 570 Israelis.

Another poll taken for Yediot Aharonot among 500 Israelis, with a margin of error of 4.5 percentage points, showed that 64 percent of Israelis — including 71 percent of Jewish Israelis — believed the army should go deeper into Lebanon. Only 37 percent — including 40 percent of Jewish Israelis — believe the war would end with Hezbollah removed from the border.

In Merj ’Uyun, a large Christian town about five miles north of the Israeli border, the small garrison of 350 Lebanese soldiers and police evacuated the town under the protection of the United Nations after the Israeli army occupied the town. The Lebanese soldiers left without their weapons. The convoy was followed by hundreds of cars packed with the remaining inhabitants of Marjayun and a neighboring town who had been trapped by the Israeli advance.

“We are refugees now,” said Fuad Hamra, the mayor of Merj ’Uyun. “Even the joint security forces are leaving. Marjayun is now empty.”

Later, after their United Nations escort left, the convoy was struck by Israeli aircraft, news agencies reported, killing 4 and wounding 16.

Mr. Annan said he welcomed the resolution but regretted how long it had taken to be adopted.

“I am profoundly disappointed that the Council did not reach this point much, much earlier,” he said. “I am convinced that my disappointment and sense of frustration are shared by hundreds of millions of people around the world.”

Warren Hoge reported from the United Nations for this article, and Steven Erlanger from Jerusalem. Helene Cooper contributed reporting from the United Nations; Jad Mouawad from Beirut, Lebanon; and Greg Myre from Metulla, Israel.
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