French changes to resolution rankle U.S.
By EDITH M. LEDERER, Associated Press Writer
The United States and France appeared at odds Wednesday over Arab demands to change a U.N. resolution they are co-sponsoring to call for a complete halt in Israeli-Hezbollah hostilities and withdrawal of Israeli forces, diplomats said.
While both countries welcomed Lebanon's announcement Monday that it will deploy 15,000 soldiers to the south when Israel withdraws, the U.S. does not believe this force and U.N. peacekeepers can prevent a vacuum without the international force, the diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the negotiations are private.
U.S. and French diplomats had been hoping for a vote on the draft early this week. But the differences between the co-sponsors meant that a Security Council vote on the resolution to try to end the fighting would be delayed at least until Thursday.
French President Jacques Chirac appealed to the United States to speed up its response to Arab nations' demands for changes to the resolution, saying that giving up the push for an immediate cease-fire would be the "most immoral" response.
Chirac, who interrupted his vacation in southern France to attend an urgent meeting on Lebanon with three Cabinet ministers,
If France and the United States do not reach agreement, he said, "we will have a debate in the Security Council and each will affirm clearly its position, naturally including France, through its own resolution."
France's U.N. Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere said he still expects a vote this week.
"Our goal is to produce a text that will be helpful, which will help to have the hostilities ending, and a text which will help to a sustainable solution," he said. "The text will be improved, and I am working to improve the text."
U.S. Ambassador John Bolton refused to comment on specifics of the negotiations but acknowledged in an interview that differences remain.
"We're still pressing for a vote on a resolution as early as we can, but we've got to reach agreement, and there are still a lot of issues that need to be considered," Bolton told The Associated Press. "So, when will the vote be? It's hard to say at this point."
Bolton and de La Sabliere were expected to continue their negotiations Wednesday and meet with three Arab envoys who flew to New York to address the Security Council and support the Lebanese government's seven-point plan, which it wants incorporated in the resolution.
Lebanon opposed the draft, saying it favored Israel. The
De La Sabliere, asked about these two demands, said "we are trying to incorporate more to take into account the concerns they have expressed about the two issues."
Lebanon also wants the resolution to include a commitment to release Lebanese and Israeli prisoners, an agreement to put the disputed Chebaa Farms area on the Lebanon-Syria-Israel border under U.N. jurisdiction, an extension of Lebanese government authority throughout the country, a beefed-up U.N. force in southern Lebanon and international help to rebuild the country.
At an open Security Council meeting on Tuesday, Qatar's Foreign Minister Hamad bin Jassem Al Thani, speaking on behalf of the Arab delegation, warned Israel that continuing attacks on Lebanon will "sow the seeds of hatred and extremism in the area" rather than restore peace and stability.
Associated Press writer Nick Wadhams contributed to this report.