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No peace without Hezbollah, says Beirut


Colum Lynch and Glenn Kessler in New York
August 4, 2006
LEBANON’S acting Foreign Minister, Tarek Mitri, doubts that his government would agree to a European-led intervention force in southern Lebanon, citing fierce opposition from Hezbollah and its key backers, Syria and Iran.

Mr Mitri said Hezbollah’s political standing in Lebanon had been greatly enhanced during its three-week battle with Israel, and that its views on the size and mandate of an international force would have to be taken into account. He said “no solution” to the violence could be found without the participation of Syria and Iran in the search for a political settlement.

“Hezbollah’s resisting so forcefully to Israel has raised their popularity,” Mr Mitri said in New York on Wednesday, where he lobbied the US and other countries to support an immediate ceasefire. “No one has exact information on what impact it has had on their military strength. But I can assure you Hezbollah has gained more popular support because of what Israel did than it had before the war. The Lebanese are united in opposition to this onslaught.”

In another sign of Hezbollah’s growing political clout, the United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, Mark Malloch Brown, contested characterisations of the Lebanese militia as a terrorist organisation in the mould of al-Qaeda, in remarks published in the London Financial Times. Leaders from the Muslim world yesterday demanded an immediate end to Israeli attacks on Lebanon and Gaza and weighed inclusion of Muslim forces in a future peacekeeping operation.

Under pressure from edgy populations at home, and aghast at the high Muslim death toll, select members of the Organisation of Islamic Conference, spearheaded by Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, met in special session in Putrajaya, Malaysia. “We must show preparedness to contribute forces for peacekeeping operations under the UN banner,” Malaysia’s Prime Minister, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, said in remarks to be delivered in closed session. “Malaysia is ready to do that.”

Deep disagreements about the terms of a peace deal separated the US from most of its European allies on Wednesday as the Security Council struggled to take preliminary steps towards a resolution. For a second time this week, diplomats cancelled a meeting of countries that might contribute troops to a peacekeeping mission. The meeting had been scheduled for yesterday, but a key contributor, France, refused to attend until there was a broad deal in place that includes a ceasefire.

But the language used by UN diplomats to describe their differences was softer than earlier in the week, and privately diplomats said they expected agreement in the next few days on a draft resolution that would outline a ceasefire arrangement.

The Security Council is now working on a single text authored by the French rather than on competing versions.

But beneath the rapprochement remain profound differences between the US and its European allies. The EU wants an immediate truce followed by negotiations on a long-term ceasefire to include such elements as disarming of Hezbollah and its integration into the Lebanese army. The US is reluctant to agree to a multi-step process, which it fears would give Hezbollah time to rearm.

The Washington Post; Los Angeles Times; Reuters

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This entry was posted on 3 August, 2006 by in Empire, War and Terror, Europe, Israel, Lebanon, Middle East, UN, USA.

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