Security Council backs ceasefire in Israel-Lebanon conflict

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Saturday, August 12, 2006

The United Nations Security Council has unanimously approved Resolution 1701 calling for a "full cessation of hostilities" in the Israeli-Lebanon war and for international and Lebanese troops to replace Israeli troops in south Lebanon.

The UN decree comes on the heels of an Israeli government decision to expand its offensive in Lebanon. Sources say that Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert will bring the UN resolution to cabinet for discussion on Sunday. Daniel Ayalon, Israel's ambassador to the United States, said that his government was likely to agree to the resolution.

"I do not want to preempt the Cabinet decision, but the language as I see it now — and I'm being careful — if the language of the resolution doesn't change, I view this resolution very positively and, of course, the crux is implementation," Ayalon said. "If this resolution will be enforced, then we solve the problem of Lebanon," said the Israeli envoy.

Hezbollah officials have not responded to the UN action. The Lebanese cabinet meets Saturday to discuss the resolution.

Lebanese leaders have cautiously welcomed the resolution which had been delayed for almost a week due to negotiations over its wording. U.N. Ambassador Nouhad Mahmoud of Lebanon said; "The Lebanese are not comfortable with the Israeli distinctions of what is defensive and what is offensive."

The resolution calls for Hezbollah to end its attacks on Israel and for Israel to end "offensive military operations" in Lebanon. It also raises the strength of the UN peacekeepers in Lebanon, the United Nations Interim Force (Unifil), from 2,000 to a maximum of 15,000, and gives it an expanded mandate to enforce the ceasefire. A portion of the UN language expanding that force's Chapter 6 mandate reads: "Acting in support of a request from the government of Lebanon to deploy an international force to assist it to exercise its authority throughout the territory, authorizes Unifil to take all necessary action in areas of deployment of its forces and as it deems within its capabilities, to ensure that its area of operations is not utilized for hostile activities of any kind... "

The U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, responding on Friday during an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer to the difference between a UN Chapter 7 mandate, and the current mandate for Unifil in Lebanon said:

So this force has a big mandate, it has a robust mandate, it has a mandate that will allow it to defend itself and to defend that mandate. But it's never been the expectation that this force is going to disarm Hezbollah. That will have to be done by the Lebanese...

...Chapter 7 is very often used when a government is not prepared to accept a force. Lebanon is prepared to accept this force, but this is an absolutely robust mandate. This, by the way, is what helped the Israeli government. They were concerned earlier about the mandate. After we talked about this enhanced mandate in the revised resolution, I think the government of Israel saw that it met their needs.

Israel is to withdraw its troops from southern Lebanon as UN and Lebanese troops are deployed. The resolution outlines plans for the disarmament of Hezbollah and for a settlement of the Israeli-Lebanese border.

The UN also called for the unconditional release by Hezbollah of two Israeli soldiers it captured on July 12th, precipitating the conflict.

123 Israelis, including 40 civilians, and 861 Lebanese, mostly civilians, have been killed in the 31-day old war.