U.N. Security Council Divided on Lebanon Plan
DON GONYEA, host:
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Don Gonyea, in for Steve Inskeep.
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
And I'm Renee Montagne.
There's been no let-up in the war between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas. Israel today renewed airstrikes on guerrilla strongholds in the southern outskirts of Lebanon's capital, Beirut. And in southern Lebanon, Israeli forces pursued the second day of their strengthened ground push against the guerrillas. Yesterday, Hezbollah responded with its biggest and deepest volley of rockets into Israel.
At the U.N., diplomats are trying to iron out their differences over how to resolve the crisis. Israel has said that it will continue its battle with Hezbollah in Lebanon until a multinational force is ready to come in and take over a buffer zone.
Washington has supported that approach, but Europeans - who are likely to make up the bulk of such a force - want a truce first.
NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.
MICHELE KELEMEN reporting:
U.N. Security Council members face a quandary. They have to draw up a mandate for an international force and agree on a peace plan at a time when members have starkly different views of the sequence of events. The U.S. ambassador to the U.N., John Bolton, has tried to downplay those differences.
Mr. JOHN BOLTON (United Stated Ambassador to the United Nations): I don't think there are philosophical differences. I mean, these don't rise to the level of Cartesian magnitude. There are differences in approach to the nature of the cessation of hostilities, and how to make it permanent, but there is near complete agreement on the fundamental political framework that has to be put in place.
KELEMEN: Bolton says diplomats are working in good faith to resolve key questions such as, what exactly will an international force do? He says the U.S. believes that a multinational force has to help Lebanon fulfill U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559, which calls for the disarming of all militias, including Hezbollah.
Mr. BOLTON: Hezbollah has to give up being an armed force, a force that carries out terrorist action. If it wants to be a political party, it needs to be a real political party. And that's certainly an end-state that I think we need to have full implementation of 1559, and we're looking at different ways to do that.
KELEMEN: French officials have made clear that they don't think disarming Hezbollah should be the job of a multinational force. France was a key partner with the U.S. in drawing up 1559, and is now expected to play a leading role in a multinational force. French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy has called for a truce and a political agreement before a multinational force can go in.
Mr. PHILIPPE DOUSTE-BLAZY (French Foreign Minister) (Through Translator) You can see today that the Israelis, who know each square meter of this part of the world, are not managing it quickly or easily. How do you think a foreign army, which does not know the land like the Israeli army, could manage it? On the contrary, we think we can take part in an international force as soon as there is a political agreement, and in particular as soon as Hezbollah is disarmed.
KELEMEN: The U.N. has once again delayed a meeting of potential troop contributors since France said it would not take part. U.N. Spokesman Ahmad Fawzi says Secretary General Kofi Annan has been begging Council members to put aside their differences and agree on an immediate truce.
Mr. AHMAD FAWZI (United Nations Spokesman): The purpose is to stop the killing, especially of innocent civilians, and to give more time to diplomacy to do its work.
KELEMEN: Fawzi has compared the paralysis to the division in the Security Council before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. But Bush administration officials insist that diplomats are getting closer to agreeing on a plan. Ambassador Bolton said there's some talk about a two-stage peace plan, and two different kinds of forces - a rapid reaction one, and a more typical peacekeeping force down the road.
Mr. BOLTON: The precise way that this will be done, how many resolutions would be involved, remains to be seen, in part because things are changing on the ground as well.
KELEMEN: As diplomats debate, Israeli ground forces have been moving deeper into Lebanon, trying to push back Hezbollah from the border. U.S. officials have repeatedly said they don't want a cease-fire to bring the region back to the status quo, with Hezbollah still capable of firing rockets into Israel.
Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington.