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Olive Branch Within Reach
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A ray of hope for peace in Lebanon is in sight after the warring parties agreed to a ceasefire today to end the month-long battle.

United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan's statement from Beirut Sunday was a timely follow-up to the resolution the Security Council sanctioned unanimously late Friday. The resolution seeks a "full cessation" of conflict between Israel and Hezbollah and offers the region its best chance yet for peace.

Let's hope Israel and Hezbollah will honour the spirit and intent of the Security Council's decision. The object of the resolution is to save civilian lives, to spare the pain and suffering that the civilians on both sides are living through.

There will be a deployment of Lebanese troops and a significantly expanded UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) peace-keeping presence across southern Lebanon. The withdrawal of all Israeli forces from the same area will follow the cessation of conflict.

The Council came up with a resolution that will ultimately herald the start of "a process to solve the underlying political problems in the region through political means." It was a war that could bring victory to nobody.

The UN peacekeeping mission will monitor the cessation of hostilities, help ensure humanitarian access to civilians and the safe return of displaced persons. It will also support the Lebanese government armed forces.

Friday's resolution, which should have come earlier, helped save the Security Council's authority and integrity. It gave Annan one week to report back on how well it has been implemented.

With an end to fighting, major challenges lie ahead for Israel, Hezbollah, the Lebanese Government and the international community to test their will, strength and ability.

They have to spell out a lasting political solution to the hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah along the Israel-Lebanon border. The standoff has bedevilled the region for more than two decades.

The humanitarian aid to the war-ravaged Lebanese should be done at a speedy pace. UN Under Secretary General For Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland described Lebanon as one of the worst places in the world in terms of getting aid to those most in need. His humanitarian workers failed to reach some 200,000 people throughout Lebanon because of the intensive fighting.

The month-long fighting has left the loss of human lives, the destruction of houses, schools, workshops, roads, bridges and power lines in a small country that was still in the process of rebuilding itself. There has to be a comprehensive political solution connected with a security solution that provides security to both Lebanese and Israelis.

It should not be forgotten that, while attention has been focused on Lebanon, Israeli military action in Gaza has killed some 200 people, and a good proportion of the Palestine Authority's ministers and parliamentarians remain in detention.

Diplomacy is also needed to solve the impasse there.

(China Daily August 14, 2006)


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