Extended Mideast Clash Seen

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The New York Sun

UNITED NATIONS — Secretary-General Annan offered a blueprint yesterday for a political settlement to the Israeli-Lebanese war, but an official closely involved in the diplomacy conducted between Turtle Bay and the Bush administration said “weeks” will pass before the plan gets into a Security Council resolution and before international pressure on Israel to end its military campaign begins in earnest.

Although he appealed to the Security Council to impose an “immediate cessation of hostilities,” Mr. Annan acknowledged yesterday that “most people in the region rightly reject a simple return to the status quo ante.”

Mr. Annan was due to discuss his plans to end the fighting, based on negotiations conducted in the region by his three envoys, at a working dinner with Secretary of State Rice in New York last night. The three envoys — Mr. Annan’s political adviser, Vijay Nambiar, and envoys Alvaro de Soto and Terje Roed-Larsen — will brief Ms. Rice at a breakfast meeting this morning and later address the Security Council.

“It is all going to be up to Condi and Israel,” one diplomat familiar with American negotiations with the United Nations said after being promised anonymity. When asked how long the negotiations will last until America, and later the Security Council, presents an agreed upon plan that will convince Israel that ending its military campaign will not mean the return of Hezbollah’s threat, the diplomat said, “weeks.”

Israel, which until now has conducted most of its war from the air, yesterday seemed prepared to begin a large ground operation, as Prime Minister Olmert warned that the fighting may mean an increase in Israeli casualties and will last for some time.

“There will be ups and downs,” Mr. Olmert told cadets at Israel’s National Security College. He called on Israelis to be patient, adding, “Israel has no conflict with Lebanon but with part of the Shiite population.”

At Turtle Bay, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Dan Gillerman, said he was “disappointed” with Mr. Annan’s speech at the Security Council yesterday because the secretary-general did not mention “three words: terror, Iran, and Syria.” Arab ambassadors, however, urged the council to impose a quick cease-fire.

“How you get a cease-fire between one entity, which is a government of a democratically elected state, on the one hand, and another entity on the other, which is a terrorist gang, no one has yet explained,” the American ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, said.

Mr. Annan, however, said in his speech that before political solutions could be adopted, “Both the deliberate targeting by Hezbollah of Israeli population centers with hundreds of indiscriminate weapons and Israel’s disproportionate use of force and collective punishment of the Lebanese people must stop.” But he acknowledged that there are “serious obstacles” to a quick cease-fire.

“One of the sad conclusions the mission had during its visit to Cairo, Beirut, and Israel is that it seems to be highly unlikely a cease-fire [can] take hold without a broad political agreement,” Mr. Roed-Larsen told reporters. “A political solution is now needed, and Mr. Annan laid down a series of proposals that he hoped would soon be accepted by the Security Council.”

In his speech, Mr.Annan said his proposals should “form the political basis of any lasting cease-fire.” But some elements in his presentation were almost contradictory, as one of his advisers, Mr. Roed-Larsen, rarely sees eye to eye with the other, Mr.de Soto. To add to the confusion, Mr. Annan also said all elements of the proposal must be implemented “in parallel.”

“I’d like to understand better what ‘in parallel’ means,” Mr. Bolton said. “A lot of this really does depend on sequencing. And when particular actions become appropriate depends on the political and military context in which you are operating.”

In addition to Mr. Annan, France recently presented a “non-paper” for action by the council. But although the council scheduled a debate open to all U.N.members on Friday, where a marathon of speakers will mostly criticize Israel, no plan is expected to be quickly adopted by the 15 members of the council.

One critical decision, nevertheless, will need to be made by the council as early as next week, as the mandate of the U.N. force posted in southern Lebanon, known as UNIFIL, expires on July 31. Renewing the mandate automatically, as the council has done every six months since 1978, is “untenable,” Mr. Annan said yesterday. UNIFIL’s 2,000 troops are helpless under the new battle conditions, he said.

His plan included posting “an expanded peacekeeping force” to help “stabilize” the situation and work with Lebanon’s government “to help strengthen its army and deploy it fully throughout the area.”

The two captured Israeli soldiers, Mr. Annan said, will be “transferred to the legitimate Lebanese authorities,” under Red Cross supervision, “with a view to their repatriation to Israel and a cease-fire.”

Other elements in the plan call for an affirmation of the border with Israel by the Lebanese prime minister, Fouad Siniora, “until agreement on Lebanon’s final international boundaries is reached,” including the Shaba farm, which Hezbollah calls “occupied.” An international “mechanism” will “monitor and guarantee the implementation of all aspects of the agreement,” including, presumably, preventing the rearmament of Hezbollah.

The New York Sun

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