- The Washington Times - Monday, August 7, 2006

The Beirut government demanded yesterday that a U.S.-French proposal for a cease-fire between Israel and Hezbollah include the immediate withdrawal of Israeli forces from Lebanon, a provision the Jewish state refuses.

The proposed U.N. resolution calls for the “full cessation of hostilities” by both Israel and Hezbollah. However, Lebanese special envoy Nouhad Mahmoud yesterday presented the U.N. Security Council with an amendment demanding that Israel withdraw from southern Lebanon before a full cease-fire and the deployment of international peacekeeping forces.

But Daniel Ayalon, Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., said his country would agree to a cease-fire only after Hezbollah had been disarmed.

“First and foremost is for the other side to return the soldiers to us, the kidnapped soldiers, and to disarm the Hezbollah and to impose an arms embargo,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.” “If this is done by the Lebanese, of course we’ll stop the fighting immediately.”

If this is not done, Mr. Ayalon said, “We will have to do it ourselves.”

When asked by host Chris Wallace whether he meant that “in the meantime,” Israel would “continue offensive operations in southern Lebanon,” Mr. Ayalon answered, “Yes.” The fighting was triggered after Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers on July 12.

But Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said negotiations are ongoing and denied that Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora has rejected the proposal.

“I talked with the prime minister, and my conversations with the prime minister concerned what concerns Lebanon about this resolution,” Miss Rice told ABC’s “This Week.” “But I think we have to realize, we have to vote the resolution, and then I think you will see the parties recognize that they have an obligation to respond to U.N. Security Council resolutions.”

National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley said on “Fox News Sunday” that the U.S. and France hoped to have the Security Council vote on their resolution no later than tomorrow morning.

“There was no rejection of the proposed resolution,” Mohamad Chatah, senior adviser to Mr. Siniora, told “Fox News Sunday.”

He said his country’s amendment reflects “a view of how best to have an immediate cease-fire and to make it stick and to solve the problems to prevent the conflict from reoccurring.”

But Israel’s ambassador said Lebanese officials likely were bowing to pressure from Iran and Syria in attempting to add amendments to the U.N. proposal.

“I’m quite surprised at the Lebanese for not taking it and endorsing this resolution,” Mr. Ayalon said.

Mr. Hadley, speaking to reporters in Crawford, Texas, said implementation of the measures most valuable to Israeli security — such as the disarming of Hezbollah and the end of its de facto control of southern Lebanon — largely would be up to the Lebanese government and Hezbollah’s foreign sponsors.

“It’s really going to be the Lebanese government that is going to have to set out and accept the arrangement on behalf of the Lebanese people. As you know, Hezbollah is a part of that government. They will have to take on that responsibility,” he said. “In addition, of course, we are asking those countries with influence on Hezbollah … and that would be particularly Iran and Syria, to send a clear message to Hezbollah that it needs to accept the will of the international community.”

Miss Rice said a successful resolution probably would not end violence between Israel and Hezbollah immediately, describing as “likely” that “some skirmishes” would continue until international forces were in place.

Mr. Hadley agreed, telling “Fox News Sunday” that the fighting “will not stop overnight. It never does in these situations.”

Meanwhile, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Mouallem told reporters in Beirut that he was willing to join Hezbollah.

“If you wish, I’m ready to be a soldier at the disposal of [Hezbollah chief] Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah,” Mr. Mouallem said during his country’s first official visit to Lebanon since Syria ended its 30-year occupation in April 2005.

• This article was based in part on wire-service reports.

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