Peace Resolution for Lebanon Unanimously Approved at U.N.
Saturday, August 12, 2006
UNITED NATIONS, Aug. 11 -- The U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a resolution Friday that calls for a halt to the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah and authorizes the deployment of 15,000 foreign troops to help the Lebanese army take control of southern Lebanon.
The resolution calls on Israel to begin withdrawing all its forces from Lebanon "in parallel" with the deployment of U.N. peacekeepers and 15,000 additional Lebanese troops. It gives the international force the mandate to use firepower but no explicit role in disarming Hezbollah, leaving the fate of the Lebanese militia to a future political settlement.
Israel and Lebanon agreed to accept the terms of the U.N. cease-fire, according to U.S. and U.N. diplomats. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will ask his cabinet to approve the resolution when it meets Sunday, according to Israeli officials. The Lebanese cabinet is scheduled to vote on it Saturday.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the cease-fire will not go into effect immediately. She said U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan will consult with Israel and Lebanon in the coming days to set a date for the cessation of hostilities.
"No one can expect an immediate end to all acts of violence," Rice said. She cautioned that "the conditions of a lasting peace must be nurtured over time."
The resolution provides the first significant hope for a gradual reduction in the violence -- and potentially an end to the month-long conflict, which has killed more than 800 Lebanese and 122 Israelis. Fighting continued Friday, with Israeli warplanes strafing cars and trucks evacuating people from the town of Marjayoun, killing at least four people, and with Hezbollah firing 124 rockets into Israel but causing no casualties.
Annan said the United Nations' failure to act sooner has "badly shaken the world's faith" in the body. "I would be remiss if I did not tell you how profoundly disappointed I am that the council did not reach this point much, much earlier," he said.
The United Nations will hold talks on the expanded peacekeeping force Saturday to determine the type of forces to be used and which countries will contribute.
The force will have to be deployed faster than any previous U.N. force, according to diplomatic sources familiar with past operations. Although its size has been determined, its structure and the types of units needed have not. An enormous amount of work will have to be done quickly to get even the initial units to Beirut and then to southern Lebanon.
French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said France, which already has U.N. troops in Lebanon, will consult with other European powers about "the possibility of providing additional support."
France's ambassador to the United Nations, Jean-Marc de La Sabliere, said foreign troops could be sent to the region quickly. "I think it can be very swift," he said.
U.S. officials said there are several possible flash points -- including a misstep during the delicate military transition -- that could potentially thwart the United Nations' efforts to bring about a durable peace.