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West Asia conflict creates stir at UN

By Dharam Shourie at United Nations
July 20, 2006 14:06 IST
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Diplomatic efforts by the United Nations to stem violence in Lebanon went into high gear on Thursday as major world powers agreed on the need to end violence but differed on how to achieve it.

While the US insisted that Hizbollah release the two kidnapped Israeli soliders, other major powers called for immediate cessation of hostilities.

In their briefings, UN officials were making a fine distinction between 'ceasefire' and 'cessation of hostilities' being sought by the world body.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan was preparing to brief the Council and give the UN perspective later in the day. He was scheduled to have discussions with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and European Security and Foreign Policy chief Javier Solana.

Annan will also have a luncheon meeting with ambassadors of the Security Council member states on Friday.

Meanwhile, the high-level mission led by the Secretary General's special advisor and former Indian ambassador to the UN, Vijay Nambiar, has cut short its visit to the Middle East and returned to New York to brief Annan prior to his meeting with Council members.

Diplomats said the mission has achieved 'little' and Syria had refused to receive it. A UN spokesman said the mission had planned to visit Syria and said the return was not connected with Damascus' refusal but was necessiated due to the briefing ahead of the Council meeting. 

Council ambassadors and diplomats were also unclear about the concept of the stabilisation force, suggested by Annan and the European Union, and talked in generalities.

Replying to specific questions, they agreed that concept was 'yet to be developed'. But the force should be able to provide environment to the Lebanese government to extend its authority over the entire country, including areas now controlled by Hizbollah, they said.

France, which holds the presidency of the Security Council for the current month, has circulated what is called a 'non paper', which according to diplomats was aimed at giving 'something' to the Council members to start discussions.

Meanwhile, the Bush administration's reported tacit support to Israel to continue bombing Lebanon for another week to degrade the infrastructure of Hizbollah militants has angered UN diplomats, mainly due to excessive civilian casualties and in view of media reports from Lebanon that the bombings have had little effect on Hizbollah.

Asked to comment on the report that the Bush administration would allow Israel to continue the bombing for another week, Deputy Secretary-general Mark Malloch Brown said, "This should not continue. It is enormously important to stop the violence and allow this (conflict) to be resolved by intense diplomatic negotiations."

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Dharam Shourie at United Nations
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