France-US play diplomatic sudoku on Lebanon

3rd August 2006, Comments 0 comments

UNITED NATIONS, Aug 2, 2006 (AFP) - The United States and France often disagree, but over Lebanon it is a rare dispute. They agree on the words of a UN resolution to end the war, but not on the order they should be written.

UNITED NATIONS, Aug 2, 2006 (AFP) - The United States and France often disagree, but over Lebanon it is a rare dispute. They agree on the words of a UN resolution to end the war, but not on the order they should be written.

A Security Council resolution on the conflict is being held up by whether international peacekeepers should move in before an outline of a political settlement between Israel, Hezbollah and the Lebanese government has been arranged.

France has drafted a resolution calling for:
1. cessation of hostilities
2. political settlement
3. international force.

According to diplomats, the US administration wants:
1. cessation of hostilities
2. international force
3. political settlement.

Both sides minimise the differences and say a resolution will be ready soon. But their diplomats and experts have spent days hammering out alternative wording to a UN resolution.

France's UN ambassador Jean-Marc de la Sablière likens sending a force to Lebanon without a political deal to putting the diplomatic "horse before the cart".

According to the US ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton: "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."

While the delay goes on, Israel has stepped up its offensive in southern Lebanon and Hezbollah has fired rockets deeper into Israeli territory.

And France has refused to attend a UN meeting of potential contributors to any international force, which has been twice called off this week.

French officials have insisted it would be "premature" to hold any meeting without a political agreement between Israel-Lebanon-Hezbollah so that any international force knows the mandate it has to enforce.

As France is expected to be one of the leaders of any force, UN officials decided there was no point preparing without them.

"We have got to agree on a concept," said Sablière. "We know the parameters, but we need an agreement between the parties and we need to have a force — a force which will assist the Lebanese government."

The United States, which has refused to back calls for an immediate ceasefire, and the other major powers have also been discussing what kind of force should be sent to Lebanon.

The US ambassador said there could be two forces: one sent as an immediate buffer force and a second with a more long term mission.

A senior US official in Washington, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the "rapid reaction force" might help reassure Israel that Hezbollah would not take advantage of a lull in fighting to rearm in southern Lebanon before a full stabilization force can be put in place.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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