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Mideast Needs Ceasefire
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The United Nations Security Council's deliberations on the US-French draft resolution, begun on Saturday, represent the organization's first substantive effort to end the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah. However, hopes that things can be settled easily must be tempered.

The draft, which represents a compromise between the United States and France, carries too much dubiety to be accepted by the parties concerned.

Where the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah will head from here remains in question.

The draft calls for "a cessation of hostilities" based on "the immediate cessation by Hezbollah of all attacks and the immediate cessation by Israel of all offensive military operations."

It calls in the longer-term for a buffer zone in southern Lebanon, which Hezbollah controls and where Israeli troops are now fighting. Only Lebanese armed forces and UN-mandated international troops would be allowed in the zone.

Lebanon swiftly rejected the draft because it failed to call for an immediate Israeli withdrawal from its soil, and has proposed an amended text.

Israel, however, warned its offensive would last until the resolution took effect.

The parties involved in the conflict, including the Lebanese Government, Hezbollah and Israel, did not have a hand, directly or indirectly, in mapping out the draft. Whether the solutions in the draft will be accepted by the dispute's chief actors is the question that has still not been solved.
The draft makes no explicit mention of the withdrawal of Israeli troops currently engaged in major incursions into southern Lebanon, and implicitly allows Israeli offensive operations. About 10,000 Israeli troops are thought to be currently fighting on foreign soil.

The resolution does not offer a timetable for international troops to enter Lebanon. It sets no deadline for Israel to stop its air, sea and land embargo on Lebanon. Neither does it respond to the Lebanese Government's request that Israel immediately hand over the Chebaa Farms area, seized in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, to UN custody.

One note of the draft says that Israeli prisoners of war should be released. However, Lebanese prisoners can continue to remain in Israeli custody with negotiations concerning their freedom promised "later," under the auspices of the United Nations.

Israeli combat jets struck villages across southern Lebanon, killing at least eight civilians, hours after the Security Council began debating the resolution.

Three members of the Chinese contingent serving with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon were lightly wounded on Sunday when a mortar round from the Hezbollah side struck their headquarters.

Four weeks of fighting between Israel and Hezbollah has put the authority of the world organization at stake.

Since the conflict began on July 12, the Security Council has failed to take any action, except issuing two statements reacting to Israeli attacks on a UN observer post and a building crowded with civilians in Qana. The UN has been criticized for its inaction.

Though still under discussion, the resolution still marks the first joint diplomatic effort to end the fighting.

It is expected that the Security Council will vote on the resolution this week. But it will still take time to bring the fighting to a halt.

(China Daily August 8, 2006)


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