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Angry MPs demand recall of parliament: Discontent over UK’s Lebanon policy

Patrick Wintour, Ewen MacAskill and Oliver Burkeman in New York
The Guardian Wednesday August 9, 2006

Up to 100 MPs, most of them Labour, are to demand an immediate recall of parliament to debate the crisis in Lebanon because of growing fears about the government’s strategy.The call is expected to come in the next 48 hours and its organisers have been in discussion with the Liberal Democrat and Scottish Nationalist parties. Negotiations are also under way with campaign groups backing the call for an immediate ceasefire that attracted the support of 200 MPs.

Jon Trickett, chairman of the Compass group of 50 leftwing MPs and a force behind the appeal, said: “In this crisis, parliament needs to speak for the nation. We are living in a 24/7 society, yet our parliament seems so ossified that it goes into recess for 11 weeks and there seems no way for backbenchers to bring MPs back.”

The demand will be made in a letter to Jack Straw, the leader of the Commons. The Speaker will take the decision, on the recommendation of the government.

The mood in Downing Street is that there is no great need for a recall. However, cabinet sources acknowledged that if the moves towards a UN resolution collapse, that could change.

The atmosphere at the UN was tense. Until late afternoon, diplomats appeared to be on the verge of securing a ceasefire deal, after the US and France devised concessions to an Arab League delegation that flew into New York on behalf of the Lebanese government. But at an extraordinary and emotional session of the security council, attended by representatives of Israel and Lebanon, each side aggressively reasserted a refusal to compromise.

The ambassador of Qatar, the council’s only Arab member, excoriated the council for “stand[ing] idly by, crippled and unable to stop the bloodbath which has become the bitter daily lot of the unarmed Lebanese people”, and warned of the “repercussions of adopting non-enforceable resolutions that will further complicate the situation on the ground.”

Tarek Mitri, the Lebanese representative, flatly rejected the draft resolution’s call for Israel to halt “offensive operations”. He said: “All the wars launched by Israel against our country have been claimed to be self-defensive … How could a resolution provide for a cessation of hostilities, and then in fact carry the great risk of continued violence and destruction?”

Dan Gillerman, Israel’s envoy, insisted his country had no quarrel with Lebanon. But “speeches and resolutions do not in themselves end conflicts”, he said. Instead, terrorism had to be “confronted and overcome”.

Central to the Arab League’s requests is a clause in the resolution calling for the withdrawal of Israeli forces from southern Lebanon as quickly as possible.

Progress was significantly advanced by the offer on Monday night by the Lebanese government to deploy its forces in southern Lebanon sooner than expected, to replace retreating Israeli forces and prevent further Hizbullah attacks.

Philippe Douste-Blazy, the French foreign minister, said Lebanon’s pledge was an “important contribution towards solving the current crisis”. The US and France, which had led the UN negotiations, welcomed the Lebanese offer and agreed to incorporate the plan into the draft.

In a further concession to the Arab League, which represents all Arab governments, they agreed to put into the draft that a proposed international force take over Sheba’a Farms, the small pocket of land Israel hung on to when it pulled out of Lebanon in 2000.

The draft resolution is becoming more complex, taking in proposals initially intended for a more detailed one in a few weeks. Denis Simonneau, the French foreign ministry spokesman, said: “We are working to have this first resolution mention a withdrawal of the Israeli army and Hizbullah.” The proposed changes have delayed further the security council vote.

Hizbullah signalled that it would not resist the deployment of the Lebanese army and the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, was more ambiguous, saying the Lebanese plan was “interesting”.

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This entry was posted on 9 August, 2006 by in Activism, Diplomacy, Empire, War and Terror, Human Rights, Israel, Lebanon, UK.

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"Those who crusade, not for God in themselves, but against the devil in others, never succeed in making the world better, but leave it either as it was, or sometimes perceptibly worse than what it was, before the crusade began. By thinking primarily of evil we tend, however excellent our intentions, to create occasions for evil to manifest itself."
-- Aldous Huxley

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of what is found there"
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