Arab League Pushes for Lebanon Cease-Fire
ALEX CHADWICK, host:
From the studios of NPR West, this is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Chadwick.
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CHADWICK: First, Arab League foreign ministers are in New York today to present Lebanon's case to the UN Security Council. Lebanon is supported here by the Arab League. Lebanon has rejected a draft resolution from the U.S. and France to end the month-long war between Israel and the Hezbollah militias.
NPR's Jackie Northam is following the UN debate. She's with us now.
Jackie, the Arab League arrival is actually delaying the vote on this resolution. Remind us, what are the League's objections to this draft?
JACKIE NORTHAM reporting:
Well, one of the key objections is that as the draft cease-fire proposal stands now, Israeli troops can remain in southern Lebanon until an international military force moves into the region to take over for them.
Lebanon, the Arab League, certainly Hezbollah, says this is unacceptable, that Israeli troops must move out of southern Lebanon once the fighting stops, once a cease-fire is in place.
Primarily, it's seen - the cease-fire proposal right now is seen as favoring Israel. And because of that, the proposal has been met with widespread condemnation throughout the Middle East.
Foreign ministers from 20 Arab nations went to Beirut yesterday. They met with Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora. He made an impassioned appeal saying, you know, as it stands now, this cease-fire proposal will not be accepted by Lebanon, Hezbollah, and certainly by the Arab League who is in New York right now. Delegates from the Arab League are in New York right now talking to the Security Council.
CHADWICK: Well, yesterday, Lebanon made a proposal that might solve this kind of dilemma over the security force. It said it might send 15,000 Lebanese troops into southern Lebanon and that might contain Hezbollah.
What's the reaction there at the UN?
NORTHAM: Well, it did. It did make the offer of deploying 15,000 of its own army troops and it was seen as a sign that - or certainly it was an offer by Lebanon as a sign that - you know, it does want to cease-fire. It is willing to, you know, make motions towards that.
Sending Lebanese troops to the south is something that the UN and Israel and the key players of this proposal, France and the U.S., were looking for.
And the Lebanese government, which includes two Hezbollah ministers, gave very few specifics about the decision, but it did say it was willing to work with the UN troops. It didn't go into any further detail than that.
Now, Israel has said that the proposal was interesting. It was seen as sort of a lukewarm reaction by Israel. Because what they are looking for, what Israel's looking for, is a robust fighting force in southern Lebanon to take over from Israeli troops.
So this is a force that is willing and able to contain Hezbollah, make sure that the guerrilla group doesn't obtain any new weapons, doesn't fire any into Israel - that type of thing.
And the Lebanese army hasn't really been seen to be able to do that on its own. I mean, certainly there weren't any substantial motions towards that before this crisis happened.
So, offering the troops is a good sign, but it's really unclear how much further ahead it's going to push this whole cease-fire process.
CHADWICK: I'll just note, there are some news reports that Hezbollah has issued a statement embracing the idea of these 15,000 Lebanese troops, so that might be disquieting for the Israelis.
How about the reaction from the U.S. and France?
NORTHAM: Well certainly, again, they're going to sit down today and listen to what the Arab League foreign ministers have to say - from them. And I think, if anything else more than that, that's seen as, you know, the appropriate thing to do - and that.
But yesterday, France and the U.S. came out, both sides, just saying, Look, as it stands right now, this proposal is good. It's non-negotiable.
At the same time, something has to move here. Because as it stands right now, the Arab world, much of the Arab world - Lebanon and certainly Hezbollah - are not going to accept it. So a cease-fire probably couldn't even take place, even if it was signed off on by the UN Security Council.
CHADWICK: Well, but still, there may be a vote on the cease-fire resolution. It's delayed, but for how long? When's it going to take place?
NORTHAM: Well, it's likely to take place tomorrow. I mean, you know, this is a floating deadline, if you like. But again, there's a real sense that this thing has to be massaged so it will appeal more to the one side of the party, which is again, the Arab world - Hezbollah and Lebanon.
CHADWICK: NPR's Jackie Northam.
NORTHAM: Thank you.
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