Arab nations demand UN shift to end Lebanon war
LEBANON: Arab countries will press the U.N. Security Council
on Tuesday for changes to a draft resolution to end the war between
Israel and Hizbollah, as the Jewish state vows to expand its offensive
in Lebanon if diplomacy fails.
On the 28th day of the conflict, rescue workers dug with their hands
and a bulldozer through rubble of a building in southern Beirut in the
hope of finding survivors from an Israeli air strike which they said
killed at least 18 people.
Israeli air raids killed more than 50 people on Monday, making it one
of deadliest days for Lebanon in the war. Lebanese Health Minister
Mohammad Khalifeh said 925 people, mostly civilians, had been killed
before Monday's casualties.
Ninety-seven Israelis have been killed since Hizbollah guerrillas
triggered the war on July 12 by capturing two Israeli soldiers.
Hizbollah, which has strongholds in southern Lebanon, has fired rockets
into the Jewish state, killing civilians.
Despite global alarm at the rising civilian casualties, days of
intensive diplomatic efforts at the U.N. Security Council to bring about
a ceasefire and lasting peace have so far failed.
France and the United States have drafted a resolution but are
considering changes because of Arab criticism. Choking back tears over
the civilian casualties, Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora demanded
"a quick and decisive" ceasefire.
With Arab League representatives due to meet the U.N. Security
Council president, U.S. Ambassador John Bolton told reporters: "We will
listen to those views very carefully."
Washington, which blames Hizbollah and its main allies Iran and Syria
for the conflict, said it was impossible to please everyone and that
U.S. and French officials had been in touch with Lebanese and Israeli
officials when they drafted the text.
Israeli media and one senior government official have said the Jewish
state viewed the draft resolution favourably, partly because it would
allow Israeli soldiers to remain in southern Lebanon until an
international force arrived to take over.
Diplomats said the Security Council was unlikely to vote on the draft
resolution until Wednesday. The draft calls for a "full cessation of
hostilities" and says Hizbollah must stop all attacks while Israel must
halt "offensive military operations".
Lebanon's government said it would send 15,000 Lebanese troops to the
south, a move long demanded by the international community. But it
demanded an immediate Israeli withdrawal before it would embark on such
U.S. President George W. Bush told reporters at his Texas ranch he
wanted a U.N. resolution as quickly as possible to end hostilities but
resisted Lebanon's demand. He said it could create a vacuum and allow
Hizbollah guerrillas to rearm. Israel has said it would not pull out its
troops in the south until a strong international force was deployed.
Israeli Defence Minister Amir Peretz said his country's ground
offensive in Lebanon would be expanded to take control of all of
Hizbollah's Katyusha rocket launching sites if there was no diplomatic
solution "within the coming days".
Political sources said Peretz had called at a government meeting for
a further advance to the Litani River, 20 km (13 miles) inside Lebanon
and well beyond the 6-7 km deep zone where Israeli forces have carved
out a "security zone". Beirut, Tuesday, Reuters