Lebanon Diplomacy Sputters at the United Nations
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
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Key U.N. Security Council members hold more meetings today to try to hammer out an agreement for a proposed cease-fire resolution to help stop the war between Israel and Hezbollah. Yesterday, there was a flurry of meetings and a lot of hope that a deal could be worked out, but it didn't happen. Still, NPR's Jackie Northam says there was a sense of optimism in the halls of the United Nations, yesterday…
JACKIE NORTHAM reporting:
…with each hint by a diplomat or an aid that the proposed resolution, cosponsored by France and the U.S., could finally be nailed down. Just as the air of anticipation hit its crescendo, it sputtered, deflated and drifted away.
Vitaly Churkin, the Russian ambassador to the U.N., delivered the news that key Security Council members were not able to agree on the resolution that was meant to stop the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah. Churkin said the humanitarian crisis in Lebanon was too urgent to wait for more negotiations.
Mr. VITALY CHURKIN (Russian Ambassador to the U.N.): We are also extremely concerned, profoundly upset by the fact that we have this humanitarian tragedy unfolding in Lebanon. So we think that time is right to call for humanitarian cease-fire.
NORTHAM: Churkin said that Russia was introducing its own resolution for a 72-hour humanitarian cease-fire so that aid could be delivered to the hundreds of thousands of Lebanese who have been displaced by the fighting and those who are caught in the crossfire. Churkin said the three-day cease-fire would help energize diplomats and politicians and focus their minds on finding a solution.
Mr. CHURKIN: By the end of 72 hours, we hope that there is going to be a deal, that there is going to be a big draft resolution for full-fledged cessation of hostilities, charting the course towards the political process which will bring about peaceful resolution of this crisis.
NORTHAM: Churkin said Kofi Annan, the U.N. secretary general, had supported the cease-fire idea and that Russia was looking for a co-sponsor for its resolution. The U.S. wasn't a likely candidate. John Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. made it clear he was not happy with Russia's proposal.
Mr. JOHN BOLTON (U.S. Ambassador to the U.N.): I don't think it's helpful to divert attention from seeking to get a permanent sustainable solution based on the approach that we and the French have been taking, and that's the approach we're going to continue to work on.
NORTHAM: France and the U.S. have spent many hours negotiating their differences, particularly over the timetable for Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon. France made an amendment yesterday calling for a progressive Israeli withdrawal. Lebanese troops would move in as the Israelis left.
Lebanon balked at another French idea about strengthening an existing U.N. peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon called UNIFIL. France proposed UNIFIL be given the given the power and authority to contain and disarm Hezbollah.
U.S. officials had little to say about the new French proposals except that there were concerns about, quote, the choreography and sequencing. Still, U.S. Ambassador Bolton continued to hold out hope that an agreement on the resolution can be reached soon.
Mr. BOLTON: I think we've got a realistic prospect of success, and we can't say for certain because there are issues that remain undecided. But I think it's serious. We're going to continue to work seriously.
NORTHAM: Bolton said he still hoped a vote on the resolution could be held today. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is scheduled to arrive at the U.N. first thing the morning.
Jackie Northam, NPR News, New York.
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