- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 8, 2006

President Bush said yesterday that a U.N. resolution to end the Israel-Hezbollah war was needed as “quickly as possible,” but he resisted a demand by Lebanon that Israeli troops immediately withdraw, prompting immediate condemnation from Arab leaders and stalling already slow negotiations.

From his ranch in Crawford, Texas, the president said, “We all recognize that the violence must stop,” but again pressed for a long-term sustainable solution, not a quick fix.

“We will work with our partners to get the resolution laid down as quickly as possible,” Mr. Bush said, with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at his side. But, he added, “Whatever happens in the U.N., we must not create a vacuum into which Hezbollah and its sponsors are able to move more weapons.”

“Sometimes, the world likes to take the easy route in order to solve a problem. Our view is, it’s time to address the root causes of problems, and to create a vacuum … is unacceptable,” he said.

Miss Rice said U.S. negotiators at the United Nations have a “strong basis for a cessation of violence,” adding “It’s going to be very important that the first resolution lay a quick foundation for a passage of a second resolution” establishing an international force for Lebanon.

As Israel intensified its strikes on Beirut and southern Lebanon, Miss Rice announced that she will head to New York today to continue negotiations with world leaders at the United Nations. She sought yesterday to placate Israel and Lebanon, saying she will “take a little time” to ease early objections to a proposed draft resolution for a cease-fire and a second resolution to call for the establishment of a peacekeeping force.

At the United Nations, the U.S. and France, authors of the draft resolutions, delayed action on the cease-fire measure to consider demands from Lebanon and Arab states over the withdrawal of Israeli troops. The draft calls for “a full cessation of hostilities” based on “the immediate cessation by Hezbollah of all attacks and the immediate cessation by Israel of all offensive military operations.”

The U.N. Security Council was scheduled to take up the matter today, but members agreed to first meet a delegation of Arab foreign ministers, who warned the council at a meeting in Beirut not to adopt resolutions that do not call for an immediate Israeli withdrawal of forces. Council action is not expected until tomorrow at the earliest.

Defending the Bush administration’s refusal to call for a cease-fire, Miss Rice said a compromise cease-fire resolution was not possible immediately after violence broke out three weeks ago because it “would not have addressed any of these items that both sides know are going to have to be addressed if we’re going to have a sustainable cease-fire in the future.”

“So this has been time that’s been well-spent over the last couple of weeks, that everybody agrees it’s time to have a cessation. We’re going to work a little bit more with the parties, and I think this resolution will be the right basis — both to cease the hostilities and to move forward,” she said.

Said Mr. Bush: “I understand that both parties aren’t going to agree with all aspects of the resolution. But the intent of the resolutions is to strengthen the Lebanese government so Israel has got a partner in peace.”

Israeli attacks killed at least 55 persons, including in an air strike on a crowded area in Shi’ite-dominated southern Beirut that destroyed a building and killed at least 15. Three Israeli soldiers were killed in battles with guerrillas in southern Lebanon as Israel expanded its ground offensive and moved farther into Lebanon.

Meanwhile, Lebanon announced that it would send 15,000 troops to the south, a move long demanded by the international community and one that could pave the way for amendments to the draft. Lebanon has not condemned Hezbollah, which is a part of the governing coalition, and has not sought to strike the terrorist group, which controls much of southern Lebanon.

Arab leaders objected to the draft resolution, which does not call for an immediate withdrawal of Israeli forces from Lebanon.

“The way it is done now in the present draft, it has a discriminatory tone, and we don’t accept it,” said Yahya Mahmassani, the Arab League’s envoy to the United Nations. “The presence of Israeli soldiers on Lebanese soil means that this is an army of occupation, and therefore, we are back to square one.”

Late yesterday, a new draft by the U.S. and France, in response to amendments proposed by Qatar, the only Arab nation on the Security Council, was circulated. 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.

France’s U.N. ambassador, Jean-Marc de La Sabliere, said he would “work today to improve the text” and “take into account the concerns of all,” but defended the original proposal.

“We think the draft resolution we have proposed is a good one,” he said.

John R. Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, also said he and his French counterpart are “still talking about possible changes we can make, based on developments in Lebanon today.”

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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