By Evelyn Leopold
Opposition from Lebanon caused the United States and France to delay a vote on a U.N. resolution aimed at ending more than three weeks of fighting and setting terms to settle the Israel-Hizbollah conflict.
The 15-member U.N. Security Council was scheduled to hold consultations on Monday and the United States and France could present a revised text at that time.
The two nations had hoped for a formal introduction of their draft resolution over the weekend for a vote on Monday but the earliest date for adoption is now expected to be Tuesday, council diplomats said.
"Our discussions were focused, for the most part, on the concerns of (Lebanese Prime Minister) Fouad Siniora," said France’s U.N. ambassador Jean-Marc de la Sabliere.
"We must take into consideration everyone’s concerns, while keeping the text’s logic," Sabliere said after a Sunday session among the five veto-holding U.N. Security Council members. — the United States, France, Britain, Russia and China.
Russia argued in favor of making the resolution more attractive to Lebanon after Qatar, the only Arab member of the council, and Lebanon came up with a series of amendments.
"Our concern was that the Lebanese government seems to be unhappy with the draft resolution," said Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin.
The chief obstacle is the presence of some 10,000 Israeli troops in southern Lebanon. The draft does not call for their withdrawal, which would be left to a follow-up resolution authorizing an international force and setting peace terms.
Lebanese Foreign Ministry official Nouhad Mahmoud presented Beirut’s proposals to the council, telling Reuters that the current text was "not implementable."
Churkin said some of the amendments appeared to depart "pretty far" from the text, which its sponsors said was negotiated in consultations with Israel and Lebanon.
"In a case like that it is pretty hard to go far from the text which has been negotiated," Churkin said.
The draft resolution calls for a "full cessation of hostilities" and says Hizbollah must stop all attacks while Israel must halt "offensive military operations."
It asks U.N. peacekeepers to monitor the truce and stipulates principles necessary for a permanent political settlement.
The council is under pressure to adopt a resolution quickly, its first since fighting began after Hizbollah abducted two Israeli soldiers on July 12. At least 759 people have been killed in Lebanon and Hizbollah has killed 58 Israeli soldiers and 36 civilians.
Israel views the U.N. draft favorably, a senior government official said in Jerusalem. He noted that it allowed Israel to respond to Hizbollah attacks after a truce and did not order Israel to withdraw its 10,000 soldiers from southern Lebanon.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged a quick vote to end the "large-scale violence."
That does not necessarily mean an end to all fighting in the short run because "these things take a while to wind down," and there could be skirmishes for some time, she said in Crawford, Texas, at President George W. Bush’s ranch.
U.S. National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley said it was important to complete work in days, not weeks, on a second resolution establishing an international force for Lebanon.
(Additional reporting by Irwin Arieff)