updated 7/29/2006 10:49:55 PM ET 2006-07-30T02:49:55

A draft resolution circulating Saturday among U.N. Security Council members would call for an immediate halt to fighting between Israel and Hezbollah and seek a wide new buffer zone in south Lebanon monitored by international forces and the Lebanese army.

The proposal, which aims to promote lasting peace between Lebanon and Israel, was sent quietly by France to the other 14 members of the council ahead of a possible meeting of foreign ministers in New York to discuss Lebanon sometime next week. A copy of the draft was obtained by The Associated Press.

The proposal stresses the need “to create the conditions for a permanent cease-fire and a lasting solution to the current crisis between Israel and Lebanon.” It emphasizes the need to end the escalating violence, but also “to address urgently the root causes that have given rise to the current crisis.

The conditions for a permanent cease-fire include a buffer zone stretching from the Blue Line — the U.N.-demarcated boundary that Israel withdrew behind in 2000 — to the Litani River, which was the northern border of Israel’s occupation of Lebanon in 1982.

The buffer zone would be “free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the Lebanese armed and security forces and of U.N.-mandated international forces,” the draft says.

Setting conditions for peace
The document, which is likely to see significant changes before adoption, is the answer to the call made Friday by President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair for a U.N. resolution that would lay the groundwork for peace in Lebanon and deploy an international force there.

It starts by calling for an immediate halt to fighting that began almost three weeks ago and has killed more than 500 people.

French diplomats refused to discuss the proposal, saying it had not been made public yet. Benjamin Chang, a spokesman for the U.S. Mission to the U.N., said the Americans had only just received the draft and were still studying it.

Still, the United States has so far refused to call for an immediate halt to the hostilities, and may oppose any demands for that.

According to the resolution, other conditions for peace include the release of the two Israeli soldiers whose abduction by Hezbollah sparked Israel’s devastating military campaign; and the implementation of Security Council resolution 1559, which demanded Hezbollah be disarmed and Lebanon extend its control to its southern border with Israel, where Hezbollah has de-facto control.

Lebanon must also firm up its border “especially in those areas where the border is disputed or uncertain, including in the Chebaa farms area.”

Israel seized the Chebaa Farms area in the 1967 war and still occupies it. Lebanon claims the area but the United Nations determined that it is Syrian, and Syria and Israel should negotiate its fate. Hezbollah points to the Chebaa Farms to claim that Israeli forces still occupy Lebanon.

Calls for international peacekeepers
Once hostilities are stopped, the resolution would call on Lebanon to deploy troops to the south along the Blue Line with Israel, and charge U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to work with key regional and international actors to secure agreement from Lebanon and Israel for a lasting political solution.

The current U.N. force in Lebanon, known by its acronym UNIFIL, would monitor implementation of the resolution for now. But those troops would be replaced by a more powerful international force to keep the peace.

The draft largely echoes ideas that France had circulated last week. But it is the first time those ideas have been put into a draft resolution and suggest a growing impetus toward action after three weeks in which the Security Council has not responded to the Lebanon crisis.

According to the draft, the new peacekeeping force would be granted authority under the powerful Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, which gives U.N.-backed troops a broader mandate to respond to attacks.

Israel has said so far that it would not allow U.N. troops. Instead, it would likely seek NATO forces, possibly operating under such a U.N. mandate.

Sequence of steps
The resolution spells out a specific sequence of steps to bring peace to Lebanon. First, Annan would step up efforts to secure an agreement from Lebanon and Israel for a lasting solution based on the conditions for peace.

As that occurs, Israel and Hezbollah would be asked to refrain from any action that might jeopardize a halt in fighting or prevent civilians from receiving humanitarian aid.

Once fighting stops, UNIFIL would then be asked to monitor the truce and ensure humanitarian access to civilians. Lebanon, in the meantime would send forces to the south along the Blue Line.

Only after all that occurs, and Israel and Lebanon have agreed to the political framework, the peacekeepers would be deployed.

Lastly, the resolution would ask the international community to give financial and humanitarian support to Lebanon urgently.

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