By Colum Lynch and Robin Wright
Washington Post Staff Writers
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.
"The Lebanese government has fully endorsed the resolution," said a senior State Department official. "It remains to be seen: Will Hezbollah behave as a Lebanese entity and assume a place in the political process or continue to be a proxy for foreign governments?"
But U.S. officials said they believe that at least some members of Hezbollah have endorsed the ideas in the proposal because Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora won unanimous cabinet support -- including from two Hezbollah ministers -- for the deployment of an expanded U.N. force.
In a compromise that straddles the demands of Israel and Lebanon, the U.N. resolution will allow the U.N. force to take "all necessary action" in areas where it is deployed to ensure that those areas are "not utilized for hostile activities of any kind," and "to resist attempts by forceful means to prevent it from discharging its duties." U.N. troops are also authorized to use force to protect civilians and ensure the flow of humanitarian assistance.
The U.N. peacekeepers would be authorized through Aug. 31, 2007, to monitor the area stretching from Israel's U.N.-demarcated border with Lebanon to the Litani River. The foreign forces would beef up the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon, which has been in place since 1978.
On prisoners, the resolution again addresses the demands of both Israel and Lebanon. It calls for the causes of the current conflict to be addressed "urgently," including the "unconditional release" of the two Israeli soldiers whose seizure on July 12 triggered the hostilities. In the next paragraph, the Security Council says it will be "mindful" of the issue of Lebanese prisoners detained in Israel and calls for "urgently settling" it.
The resolution, based on a U.S.-French draft, also calls for an international embargo on military equipment destined for Lebanon but not going to the Lebanese army.
The resolution requests that Annan develop proposals to solve the issue of Shebaa Farms, a small area abutting Lebanon and Syria that was captured by Israel in the 1967 war. The area had been the primary battleground between Hezbollah and Israel since Israel ended its 22-year occupation in 2000.
The measure urges Annan to present his proposal to the Security Council within 30 days. The proposal will leave out some concerns on both sides and will take days, perhaps even weeks, to complete. "Israel will not get everything it sought in this resolution, but neither will Lebanon," British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett said on CNN.
The resolution addresses an Israeli concern by calling for the creation of a muscular force that will move into Hezbollah's stronghold in southern Lebanon. But in a concession to Lebanon, it does not invoke a provision of the U.N. Charter, Chapter 7, that has traditionally been used for approving the United Nations' most aggressive peacekeeping operations.
The resolution outlines a vague role for U.N. peacekeepers in addressing a key Israeli and U.S. concern: the supply of weapons to Hezbollah from Syria and Iran. It says only that U.N. troops will "support" Lebanese efforts to prevent arms-smuggling into southern Lebanon.
The United States and France dismissed Lebanese demands for an immediate cease-fire that would prohibit Israel from carrying out even defensive military actions. Instead, the resolution requires Hezbollah to immediately cease all attacks, while calling on Israel to immediately cease only its "offensive military operations."
Israel will have the right to respond militarily if it faces an imminent threat, a senior U.S. official said, adding that the United States expects "a dramatic reduction in large-scale violence. We're talking about a defensive response to Hezbollah and not to move any further north -- to stop where they are and the large-scale bombing to stop."
The resolution calls on Israel and Lebanon to embrace a set of political commitments that could help lead to a permanent cease-fire, including security agreements to prevent the resumption of hostilities, the disarmament of all Lebanese militias and an arms embargo.
Annan is expected to intensify international diplomatic efforts to broker a political settlement between Israel and Lebanon. Qatar's foreign minister, Hamad Bin Jasim al-Thani, who represented the Arab world on the council, complained that the resolution "lacks balance" and fails to adequately address "Israeli aggression." But he said he backed it "in order to stop the bloodshed of innocents and to spare Lebanon and the region more horrors of destruction."
In their first conversation since hostilities erupted, Olmert called President Bush on Friday afternoon to express his thanks for the U.S. role in brokering a resolution. "Prime Minister Olmert thanked President Bush for the work he had done on the draft U.N. resolution on the Lebanon crisis," National Security Council spokesman Frederick Jones said. "The president expressed his view that the crisis was provoked by Hezbollah with the support of Iran and Syria and that we need to ensure that the reach of the Lebanese government extends throughout the country."
Rice pledged that the United States will increase its humanitarian aid to Lebanon to $50 million, up from $30 million, and called on other nations to be generous in providing relief and reconstruction aid.
Wright reported from Washington. Staff writer Michael Fletcher in Crawford, Tex., contributed to this report.