President Bush on Monday said he anticipates that Hezbollah and Israel will not agree with all aspects of a Mideast cease-fire resolution but said “we all recognize that the violence must stop.”
The president said the United States and its allies were pressing for a comprehensive solution that would restore Lebanon’s sovereignty and provide a lasting peace.
Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke about the Mideast during a meeting with reporters at his Texas ranch. Rice is expected to go to the United Nations for deliberations on twin resolutions for a cease-fire and the establishment of a peacekeeping force.
She called the resolutions “a reasonable basis that I think both sides can accept” once details are worked out. Bush said the goal was to find consensus quickly on a resolution calling for a cessation of violence.
“I understand that both parties aren’t going to agree with all aspects of the resolution,” the president said. “But the intent of the resolutions is to strengthen the Lebanese government so Israel has got a partner in peace.”
At the United Nations, the United States and France delayed action on the cease-fire measure to consider demands from Lebanon and Arab states over the withdrawal of Israeli troops.
The proposed changes include a call for Israeli forces to pull out of Lebanon once the fighting stops and hand over their positions to U.N. peacekeepers. A draft resolution by the United States and France would allow Israel to strike back if Hezbollah were to break a cease-fire. The draft made no mention of an Israeli withdrawal.
“I don’t believe anybody anticipates that there should be foreign forces on Lebanese soil as a result of what has happened here,” Rice said.
‘Time to address root causes’
Bush, on a 10-day vacation at his ranch, emphasized that the U.N. resolution must deal with Hezbollah, which he said was the root cause of the violence.
“Whatever happens in the United Nations, we must not create a vacuum in which Hezbollah and its sponsors can move more weapons,” he said.
“Sometimes the world likes to take the easy route in order to solve a problem,” Bush said. “Our view is it’s time to address root causes of problems. ... The idea is to have the Lebanese government move into the south so that the government of Lebanon can protect its own territory, and that there be an international force to provide the help necessary for the Lebanese government to secure its country.
Rice said there was wide agreement on that point.
“I think there is room ... to work on this issue because everybody has the same vision,” the secretary said. “That it's the Lebanese army with support from an international force that can actually prevent that vacuum from appearing again in the south, so that we’re not right back here three or four or five months from now in the same situation.”
U.N. vote Tuesday at earliest
Washington and Paris were expected to circulate a new draft later Monday in response to amendments proposed by Qatar, the only Arab nation on the Security Council, and other members, diplomats said.
The proposed changes include a call for Israeli forces to pull out of Lebanon once the fighting stops and hand over their positions to U.N. peacekeepers. Arab states also want the U.N. to take control of the disputed Chebaa Farms area, which Israel seized in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.
France’s U.N. Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere said he would try to improve the text, which was worked out in conjunction with the United States, but suggested he would only go so far. “We think the draft resolution we have proposed is a good one,” de La Sabliere said.
France and the U.S. had hoped to put the resolution to a vote Monday, but Tuesday would now be the earliest date for a decision. In the meantime, foreign ministers from several of the Security Council’s 15 nations are coming to New York in preparation for such a meeting.
The Arab League, meeting in Beirut, Lebanon, dispatched a three-man delegation to the U.N. to represent Lebanon’s interests. The delegation will include the foreign ministers of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, as well as Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa.
“Today we feel stronger with this ministerial delegation defending Lebanon,” Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora said after the meeting of Arab League foreign ministers.
Lebanon and the Arabs see the U.S.-French draft resolution as heavily tilted toward Israel.
Lebanon leaders see it differently
But Lebanon's parliamentary speaker, a prominent Shiite who has been negotiating on behalf of Hezbollah, on Sunday rejected the draft cease-fire resolution because it did not include the government’s plan for ending the fighting.
Nabih Berri said Lebanon would not accept any terms that did not include a government plan calling for an immediate cease-fire and withdrawal of Israeli troops.
“Lebanon, all of Lebanon, rejects any talks or any draft resolution that does not include the seven-point government framework,” Berri said at a news conference in Beirut.
Prime Minister Fuad Saniora first offered Lebanon's plan, later adopted by his Cabinet, during the Rome crisis summit July 26.
The seven-point proposal calls for a mutual release of prisoners held by Israeli and Hezbollah and the withdrawal of Israeli troops from southern Lebanon. It foresees the Lebanese government taking control of southern Lebanon with the help of an international force.
The U.S.-French proposal, which was expected to go to the floor of the U.N. Security Council early this week, calls for Hezbollah to stop all military operations and for Israel to stop its offensive drive against Lebanon. The proposal would allow Israel to strike back if Hezbollah were to break a cease-fire.
The draft resolution does not require an immediate Israeli withdrawal to its side of the common border.