U.N. Resolution Proposal Includes 'Buffer Zone'

Amid intense fighting between Hezbollah and Israel, diplomatic efforts to end the conflict are in full force this weekend. The United States and France put forward a proposed U.N. Security Council resolution calling for an end to the fighting and for U.N. peacekeepers to patrol the Israeli-Lebanese border.

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

From NPR News, this is WEEKEND EDITION. I'm Liane Hansen. Hezbollah today launched its largest rocket attack of the three and a half week-long conflict with Israel. At least 10 people died in northern Israel, including nine Israeli soldiers, in a barrage that lasted more than 15 minutes. On the Lebanese side, Israel also kept up its air and ground attacks. At least two Lebanese civilians were killed today.

The fighting continued as diplomatic efforts to end the conflict were stepped up this weekend. The United States and France put forward a proposed U.N. Security Council resolution calling for an end to the fighting and for U.N. peacekeepers to patrol the Israeli/Lebanese border. Joining us is NPR's diplomatic correspondent Michele Keleman. Michele, first of all, could you lay out for us the principal parts of the proposed resolution?

MICHELE KELEMAN reporting:

Well, originally it started, it was a French draft, and it merged into this U.S.-French version. The original one had a very simple phrase. It said we call for an immediate cessation of hostilities.

Now, this latest version, the one that's on the table, says that we call for a full cessation of hostilities, and it says it wants an immediate cessation by Hezbollah of all attacks and the immediate cessation by Israel of all offensive military operations.

Now, these might sound like just, you know, wordsmithing at the U.N., but these are very important words, open for interpretation. And otherwise it calls - it's essentially the same - it calls for the U.N. - the UNIFIL, it's called, which the U.N. Interim Force, though it's been there for 28 years, in Lebanon - to monitor the cessation of hostilities until an international force can go in. And that would take another U.N. resolution.

The French ambassador said that could take about two or three weeks from now, that they would pass a mandate for that resolution, and that force would go in and take on the job of making sure this buffer zone is in place in southern Lebanon, where there's no Hezbollah, only the Lebanese army and an international force.

HANSEN: So what's been the response to this proposal?

KELEMAN: Well, the Lebanese - some Lebanese officials outright reject it. The Lebanese envoy to the U.N. yesterday said it's just going to work. I mean they've been calling for a cessation of hostilities, and they want the Israelis to leave southern Lebanon.

The Israelis have said that they're going to stay in southern Lebanon until a new international force is in place, so - and they say that they plan to keep waging this war on Hezbollah until this resolution passes and then they're going to take defensive operations against Hezbollah. And again, this is open for interpretation of what exactly that means.

HANSEN: So with these reactions, what are the chances that this proposal is going to amount to much?

KELEMAN: Well, I mean it's likely to pass the Security Council, because Lebanon and Israel are not on the Security Council. This was a deal worked out between the U.S. and France. So it's likely to pass there. How it plays out on the ground is really open to question, though.

HANSEN: NPR's diplomatic correspondent Michele Keleman. Michele, thanks a lot.

KELEMEN: You're welcome.

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