U.S., France Near Agreement on U.N. Draft Resolution

By Colum Lynch and Robin Wright
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, August 11, 2006; 1:08 PM

UNITED NATIONS, Aug. 11 -- The United States and France neared agreement Friday on a resolution that would call for a halt to violence and authorize the deployment of thousands of Lebanese troops and U.N. peacekeepers in southern Lebanon.

"We are very, very close to agreement and our aspiration to have a vote at the end of the afternoon remains," said John R. Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

France's U.N. ambassador Jean Marc de La Sabliere said "we are close" to agreement.

Meanwhile, in Israel, a government spokesman said Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had given the green light for an expanded ground war in Lebanon, the Associated Press reported. It was not immediately clear how the news would impact diplomacy at the United Nations.

An Israeli diplomat in Washington said his country is getting frustrated with the prolonged diplomacy as Hezbollah's attacks -- including a rocket strike today in Haifa -- continue. "As this thing is being drawn out and our troops are in danger, we need to improve the situation on the ground," the diplomat said. "Haifa was attacked. We have to take steps to defend ourselves."

Friday's diplomatic advances followed Lebanon's objection on Thursday to a U.S. and French proposal to enlarge a U.N. peacekeeping mission in south Lebanon and give it the authority under a provision of the U.N. Charter, known as Chapter 7, to use force to implement its mandate.

Friday morning, the U.S. and France settled on a compromise that would grant U.N. peacekeepers a somewhat less forceful mandate to restore calm and help thousands of Lebanese soldiers take control of a buffer zone between the two countries.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy flew to New York Friday to assist in the negotiations. British foreign secretary Margaret Beckett arrived in New York Thursday night.

On Friday, Assistant Secretary of State David Welch returned to Beirut for the third time to talk through the new draft with Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.

Nassir Abdulaziz al-Nasser, the U.N ambassador from Qatar, which represents the Arab world in the Security Council, said "I'm sure we will have a new language which maybe it will satisfy the Lebanese." He said the U.S. and France were now pressing Israel and Lebanon to accept it.

"We want a Security Council resolution that is as strong as possible," said the Israeli diplomat in Washington. "Will a force be there to monitor or to enforce a peace? We think Chapter 7 [authorizing force] is more appropriate. The mandate has to have teeth." U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan urged the council to approve a resolution today, saying "It's time for decision. Each day that the discussions go on, the death, the killings and the destruction continues in the region, and civilians on both sides suffer."

Russia's U.N. ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, said that if the U.S. and France failed to reach agreement today he would call for a vote on a Russian resolution urging the warring parties to observe a 72 hour "humanitarian truce."

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