Rice Calls Plan At U.N. Crucial Step to Peace

By Michael A. Fletcher
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, August 7, 2006

CRAWFORD, Tex., Aug. 6 -- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice pressed Sunday for approval of a draft U.N. resolution calling for a "cessation of hostilities" between Israel and Hezbollah, saying it is a crucial "first step" toward resolving the conflict.

Acknowledging that passage of the resolution would not immediately end the fighting that has raged for most of the past month, Rice said that it nonetheless offers a framework that would not only eventually end the hostilities but also stabilize the area going forward.

The resolution does not call for Israeli troops to immediately withdraw from Lebanon, a point that has drawn sharp opposition from key players in the conflict. Even as Rice called for the resolution's quick passage in the United Nations, Syria, which is one of Hezbollah's main sponsors, said the proposal is unacceptable.

"This agreement is bad in every sense of the word," Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said as he arrived Sunday in the Lebanese northern port city of Tripoli, Lebanon's national news agency reported.

Senior Lebanese officials also expressed reservations about the terms of the proposal. Mohamad Bahaa Chatah, senior adviser to Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, said Lebanon wants Israel to leave Lebanese territory as soon as a cease-fire takes hold.

"We are saying the Lebanese army, right after the cease-fire, right after the first resolution, takes charge of the south, takes over military positions at the same time that Israel withdraws to the border," Chatah said on "Fox News Sunday." "If we adopt a fuzzy plan waiting for some international force to be put together, in the meantime things can escalate -- and they probably will -- and can spill over to other countries in the region, and that's the last thing that anyone wants."

Speaking on the same program, the Israeli ambassador to the United States, Daniel Ayalon, said Israel is concerned about the terms of the release of two soldiers whose abduction ignited the current conflict, in which more than 600 Lebanese and 85 Israelis have been killed.

Israel would abide by the agreement if it allows for return of the kidnapped soldiers, disarms Hezbollah and prevents arms from flowing to Hezbollah, Ayalon said.

In comments to reporters here, Rice brushed aside opposition to the proposed deal, saying that the resolution should go to a quick vote. If it is approved, the international community will have spoken, she said, and "we'll see who's for peace and who isn't."

As Rice urged passage of the resolution, deadly fighting continued on both sides of the Israeli-Lebanese border. A barrage of Hezbollah rockets killed 15 people: 12 reserve soldiers at a kibbutz in northern Israel and three civilians in Haifa.

The rocket that hit the communal farm in Kfar Giladi was one of more than 115 fired into Israel by mid-afternoon Sunday. The attacks came as Israeli airstrikes pounded targets across southern Lebanon, killing 13, according to Lebanese journalists quoting local officials.

Rice, who was in Crawford for weekend meetings with President Bush at his ranch, urged Hezbollah's key foreign backers, Syria and Iran, to embrace the resolution. "We will ask everyone who has any influence with all the parties to talk to them about taking this opportunity," Rice said.

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