U.N. Meets in Emergency Session on Lebanon
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
And I'm Michele Norris.
Today United Nations diplomats warned that with the escalating fighting in the Middle East the window for diplomacy is closing. The Security Council, which already has a full plate of problems to deal with, held an emergency session today on Lebanon. NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.
MICHELE KELMEN reporting:
A top Lebanese foreign ministry official urged the Security Council to call for a ceasefire and pressure Israel to lift an air and sea blockade of his country. Speaking through an interpreter, Nouhad Mahmoud accused Israel of barbaric aggression.
Mr. NOUHAD MAHMOUD (Foreign ministry official, Lebanon): What Israel is undertaking is an act of aggression and devastation, aimed at bringing Lebanon to its knees and subverting it by any means.
KELEMEN: Israel's Ambassador, Dan Gillerman, addressed the Lebanese official directly on the council floor. He said that Lebanon is occupied by terror in the south, meaning Hezbollah, and a tyrant in the north, referring to Syria.
Ambassador DAN GILLERMAN (Israel, U.N. Security Council): You know deep in your heart that if you could you would be sitting here right next to me right now. Because you know that we are doing the right thing. And if we succeed, Lebanon will be the beneficiary.
KELEMEN: The Security Council didn't take any action except for issuing a statement in support of a top U.N. team sent to the Middle East to try to calm tensions. Most members argue that Israel's military response to a Hezbollah attack has been disproportionate, and urged Israel to stop bombing Lebanese infrastructure. The U.S. stood up for Israel's right to defend itself against Hezbollah. U.S. Ambassador John Bolton, blamed Iran and Syria for fueling the fight.
Ambassador JOHN BOLTON (U.S., U.N. Security Council): No reckoning with Hezbollah will be adequate, without a reckoning with its principal state sponsors of terror.
KELEMEN: Iran is heading to the Security Council on another issue: its nuclear standoff with the West. Ambassador Bolton hopes the council will move quickly, next week on a resolution making it mandatory for Iran to suspend its controversial nuclear activities. Meanwhile, he and others have had a tough time this week persuading the council to pass a binding resolution on North Korea and its missile program.
Ambassador BOLTON: Ten days since the seven missiles were launched, there comes a time when you have to put this to a decision.
KELEMEN: The hold up is that Russia and China - both veto holders - don't want what's known as a Chapter Seven resolution, which they fear could justify future military action. Earlier this week, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin explained why his country is so leery of the language used in U.N. resolutions.
Ambassador VITALY CHURKIN (Russia, U.N. Security Council): Chapter 7 is very serious, very heavy stuff, and we should not be, you know, throwing the book at every situation.
KELEMEN: Churkin said references to Chapter Seven of the U.N. charter may sound innocuous but turn out to be not so innocuous. He was clearly referring to U.N. resolutions on Iraq, which the U.S. used to justify war. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington.
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