U.S., France agree on draft Mideast resolution
The United States and France agreed Saturday on a draft United Nations Security Council resolution that calls for an end to the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah but would allow Israel to defend itself if attacked, officials said.
Members of the 15-member Security Council were to hold a closed-door meeting at 3 p.m. ET to discuss the proposal. But observers speculated that it might be several days before a vote is held.
U.S. Ambassador John Bolton and French President Jacques Chirac's office confirmed that an agreement had been reached.
Officials were optimistic that the agreement might bring an end to the violence that has devastated the Middle East over the past 26 days.
But Lebanon said the text fell short of what it wanted to halt the 26-day-old conflict that has killed at least 800 people.
"We would have liked to see our concerns more reflected in the text," Lebanese Foreign Ministry official Nouhad Mahmoud said at the United Nations.
"Unfortunately, it lacked, for instance, a call for the withdrawal of Israeli forces which are now in Lebanon. That is a recipe for more confrontation," he said.
While the report has not yet been made public, details of the plan were beginning to emerge.
"It does not say immediate cessation of violence," an official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the draft had not yet been made public.
Israel and the U.S. have refused to call for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire, saying it would only bring a temporary peace.
However, France and many other nations have pushed for an immediate halt to the violence.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair called the draft resolution "an important breakthrough" and said it could result in a ceasefire within the next few days.
"The priority now is to get the resolution adopted as soon as possible and then to work for a permanent ceasefire and achieve the conditions in Lebanon and Israel which will prevent a recurrence," he said.
Two resolutions expected
The U.S. ambassador said he expected the UN to issue two resolutions. Bolton said the first draft addresses the fighting and the second would likely outline a larger plan for peace between Israel and Hezbollah.
"We're prepared to continue to work tomorrow [Sunday] in order to make progress on the adoption of the resolution, but we have reached agreement and we're now ready to proceed," Bolton said.
"We're prepared to move as quickly as other members of the council want to move."
With files from the Associated Press, Reuters