Rice says she will seek UN cease-fire resolution

Posted in Israel / Palestine | 31-Jul-06 | Source: International Herald Tribune

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice delivers a statement in Jerusalem, Israel, Monday July, 31, 2006.
JERUSALEM Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice of the United States ended a peace mission to the Middle East on Monday and said she believed a cease-fire between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon could be forged this week.

In a statement read out in Jerusalem, Rice said she would call for a United Nations resolution this week on the ceasefire and also the establishment of an international stabilisation force for southern Lebanon.

"This morning, as I head back to Washington I take with me an emerging consensus on what is necessary for both an urgent cease-fire and a lasting settlement," Rice said.

"I am convinced we can achieve both this week and I am convinced that only by achieving both will the Lebanese people finally be able to control their country and their future and the people of Israel will finally be able to live free from the threat of attack from terrorist groups in Lebanon."

She did not provide details on exactly what both sides agreed on but there are still divisions at the United Nations over what is needed to end the 20-day war between Israel and Lebanon.

"I believe our work has prepared the way for the United Nations Security Council to act on both an urgent and comprehensive basis this week," Rice said.

A meeting of potential contributors of troops to an international force will be held at the United Nations on Monday. The United States has not offered any of its own forces.

Rice said the force should be deployed as soon as possible after the U.N. resolution.

On Sunday, Rice won a 48-hour suspension from Israel of its aerial bombardment of southern Lebanon following Israel's air strike on a Lebanese village that killed at least 54 people, most of them children, and led Rice to cancel a trip to Beirut.

Israel would also coordinate with the United Nations to allow a 24-hour window for residents of southern Lebanon to leave the area if they wished and Rice said she hoped this would be renewed to speed up much-needed humanitarian aid.

Rice held extended meetings on Sunday with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni of Israel at which she urged Israel to use restraint after the Qana attack, in which 37 children died while sheltering in a basement with their families.

Before leaving Jerusalem she was set to meet Defense Minister Amir Peretz one more time to hash out more details over what would be acceptable in a U.N. resolution.

There was no immediate official Israeli reaction to Rice's statement.

Rice's announcement came after a tumultuous week of diplomacy which appeared to be derailed after the Qana bombing.

While optimistic there will be agreement this week on what is needed in a ceasefire deal at the United Nations, Rice will disappoint many of her allies by not demanding an immediate end to the fighting.

At least 542 people have been killed in Lebanon, though the health minister estimated the toll at 750 including unrecovered bodies. Fifty-one Israelis have been killed in the war.

Both Israel and the United States have said an immediate ceasefire would be meaningless unless Hezbollah could no longer carry out raids and rocket attacks and the Shiite militia was eventually disarmed as demanded by a U.N. resolution.