World powers agree to plan to end Mideast fighting

World powers agreed on Friday on a U.N. resolution to end four weeks of fighting between Israel and Hizbollah, but an Israeli government official said the offensive in Lebanon would not be halted yet.

The draft resolution was set to be unanimously approved by the Security Council later on Friday, diplomats said. The Lebanese government accepted the draft, an official source said.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told President Bush that he backs the resolution, an Israeli government official said.

“The prime minister spoke with President Bush and thanked him for his assistance in keeping Israeli interests in mind at the Security Council,” the official said. Olmert will urge his cabinet to approve the U.N. resolution at a meeting on Sunday.

An Israeli official, however, said the Israeli army would not stop its offensive until the cabinet met on Sunday to consider the resolution.

Earlier on Friday, Olmert ordered an expansion in the ground campaign against Hizbollah in southern Lebanon.

There was no let-up in violence. Israeli attacks killed at least 26 people in Lebanon on Friday, including seven killed when a drone fired rockets at a convoy of hundreds of cars fleeing the south. An Israeli soldier was reported killed in fighting and Hizbollah rockets wounded seven people in Israel.

The revised U.S.-French Security Council draft resolution, obtained by Reuters, authorizes up to 15,000 U.N. troops to monitor a withdrawal of Israeli soldiers from southern Lebanon and help the Lebanese army enforce a truce.

The draft calls for a “full cessation of hostilities” and tells Hizbollah guerrillas to stop all attacks immediately and Israel to end “all offensive operations”.

After fighting stops, Israel is to withdraw all its forces from southern Lebanon at the earliest. Lebanon is to deploy its armed forces throughout southern Lebanon as Israel withdraws.


U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice flew to New York in anticipation of a vote on ending the war, in which at least 1,041 people in Lebanon and 123 Israelis have been killed.

Rice phoned Olmert and Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora to try to get them to accept the text, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.

She later told CNN she expected both countries to accept the resolution.

British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett cautioned that the resolution was only a short-term settlement. “We’re not here trying to solve all the problems of the Middle East overnight,” she said.

At the insistence of Lebanon, the United States and Britain agreed to drop a reference to Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, which permits a robust U.N. peacekeeping operation.

But the text carried strong rules of engagement anyway for the expanded force that France is expected to lead.

Israeli raids on a bridge near the border with Syria killed 12 people and wounded 18, hospital staff said. Witnesses said a second strike hit the bridge 15 minutes after the first had brought rescuers rushing to the scene.

Witnesses and rescue workers said seven people were killed and 36 wounded when an Israeli drone fired rockets at a convoy of hundreds of vehicles that had left the town of Marjayoun, seized by Israel on Thursday. Around 3,000 civilians and 350 Lebanese security men were in the convoy.

Reuters reporter Karamallah Daher, who was in the convoy, said explosions erupted near the front of the column of vehicles, causing panic as drivers tried to escape the attack. Some crashed into ditches and drivers fled to nearby villages.

The Israeli military said it was checking the report.

Israeli strikes killed two people in the eastern Bekaa Valley and five in south Lebanon, security sources said.

Israeli bombs also hit electricity transformers and cut off power to the southern city of Tyre, security sources said.

Hizbollah announced the death of four more of its fighters.

More bombs hit Beirut’s battered Shi’ite Muslim suburbs, hours after dawn raids on the capital. Many people fled the suburbs on Thursday after Israel dropped warning leaflets.

Hizbollah, whose seizure of two Israeli soldiers sparked the war on July 12, fired more than 55 rockets into Israel, wounding seven people, police and ambulance staff said.

Humanitarian agencies sought ways to get aid to an estimated 100,000 people trapped in southern Lebanon and the mayor of Tyre said the city could run out of food in two days.

Aid convoys have been unable to deliver supplies since an Israeli air strike hit a bridge on the Litani River on Monday.

(Additional reporting by Jerusalem, Beirut, Washington, Paris and Dubai bureaus)

© Reuters 2006