Deal Moves U.N. Toward Mideast Resolution
DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Debbie Elliott.
Some progress at the United Nations on the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah today. France and the United States agreed to a draft Security Council resolution they say will be a first step toward resolving the crisis in the Middle East.
The Council met this afternoon and is likely to meet again tomorrow.
NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.
MICHELE KELEMEN reporting:
After a week of wrangling over the wording of the resolution, the U.S. and France issued a final text today. Rather than calling for an immediate cessation of hostilities - the simple phrasing that France originally suggested - this resolution calls on Hezbollah to end attacks immediately and calls on Israel to immediately stop, quote, all offensive military operations.
Those are words that do not sit well with Lebanese officials, including Mohammad Chatah, an advisor to Lebanon's prime minister, who spoke to the BBC.
Mr. MOHAMMAD CHATAH (Lebanese Advisor): Let's stop the semantics. I think people realize that there's a need for an immediate and full cessation of all hostilities.
KELEMEN: But French Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere said he thinks this resolution will help the people of Lebanon because it will make it easier for humanitarian agencies to reach people. And it calls for the harbor and airports to be reopened after a three week long Israeli blockade. The French ambassador lamented the fact that it has taken so long to finalize the text and he urged Council members to act on it quickly.
Mr. JEAN-MARC DE LA SABLIERE (French Ambassador): Looking, you know, what is happening in Lebanon and some cities in the northern part of Israel, that we have to act responsibly and go swiftly.
KELEMEN: This resolution is just a first step. Another would have to be drafted to set up an international force, which is to be deployed in southern Lebanon after Israel and Lebanon agree to elements of a long-term solution, which includes the disarming of Hezbollah.
Israel has said it would stay in southern Lebanon until a robust international force is in place. France's ambassador said he could see Security Council action on this in three or four weeks.
U.S. ambassador John Bolton wouldn't make any predictions, though, or give a timetable for Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon. He repeated the U.S. position that an end to the fighting can't return the region to the status quo with Hezbollah still capable of firing rockets into Israel.
Mr. JOHN BOLTON (U.S. Ambassador): We want this to be a transformational solution that moves the region beyond the problem that has existed for so many years. So we felt that it was very important for France and the United States and Britain and others to stay together on this. And I think we've accomplished that.
KELEMEN: Security Council diplomats still have to agree on the text and then sell the ideas in it to Israel and Lebanon.
Michele Kelemen, NPR News. Washington.