France, Britain and US move closer to deal at UN for multinational force in Lebanon.
NEW YORK, 3 Aug 2006 (IRIN) - France, Britain and the United States edged closer to an agreement on Wednesday at the United Nations that would call for the cessation of hostilities in Lebanon, with a settlement potentially including the deployment of a multinational force.
"I think we are working very well, we are getting closer," said the French ambassador to the UN, Jean-Marc de la Sabliere, as he entered a closed-door Security Council meeting on Wednesday after days of diplomatic wrangling.
Other members seemed to agree with De la Sabliere's positive outlook. "I'm confident that by [Thursday] we'll be in a position to have discussions in the council on a text which actually takes us forward. Prospects now of adoption soon of a resolution have improved considerably," said Britain's Ambassador to the UN, Emyr Jones Parry.
France distributed a draft resolution to council members last Sunday, calling for an immediate cessation of hostilities as part of a seven-point position that would lead to an overall political framework for peace, including disarming Hezbollah militants, delineating Lebanon's international borders and creating conditions for a permanent ceasefire.
After Wednesday's council meeting, John Bolton, the US Ambassador to the UN, noted there were no "philosophical differences", but "differences in approach to the nature of the cessation of hostilities and how to make it permanent". He added that there was almost complete agreement on the fundamental political framework, which would lead to agreement on the mandate of an international force and its composition.
Bolton also seemed to soften his characterisation of Hezbollah as 'terrorists'. Referring to council resolution 1559, which calls for the disarming of domestic militias, he said, "Hezbollah has to give up being an armed force, a force that carries out terrorist action." The Hezbollah party is represented in the Lebanese cabinet and holds 24 seats in parliament.
One option, according to a European diplomat, is a quick resolution calling for an immediate cessation of hostilities, with a more comprehensive political solution to follow in a second resolution.
France and the US worked through a number of bilateral meetings on Wednesday to try to iron out their differences, and a revised French draft resolution may circulate later. The French have put their foot down regarding a ceasefire, then a political solution with a discussion of a multinational force. They have indicated they would be interested in leading a multinational force. They decided not to attend a meeting of potential troop contributors, noting, as De la Sabliere said last week, "It is too early...it is putting the cart before the horse."
There are a number of ideas as to how many troops would be deployed, or what countries would participate, including weighing the possibility of a multinational force or UN peacekeepers.
One mandate being discussed is a 'coalition of the willing', whereby troops from UN member states would be deployed immediately to the region where their sheer presence would help quell the fighting, according to a senior UN official. That way, two contingents could be shipped out - one immediately, one later - to create the circumstances for a ceasefire.
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