Da The Globe and Mail del 11/08/2006
Originale su http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20060811.wmideast08...

UN talks stall on ceasefire for Middle East

di Mark MacKinnon, Carolynne Wheeler

Jerusalem and Beirut — Israeli warplanes resumed air strikes on Beirut yesterday while intensive diplomatic efforts at the United Nations produced only more wrangling over ceasefire terms.

Reports earlier in the day indicated that a breakthrough had been made in the talks, involving the inclusion of an immediate cessation of hostilities, and a progressive Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon simultaneous with the deployment of the Lebanese army, backed by UN peacekeepers and French troops.

But by early today, progress in the talks had stalled, Reuters reported. Council members can delay a vote while their governments study the text, and some envoys predict adoption tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Russia's UN ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, introduced a resolution calling for a 72-hour humanitarian truce as a stop-gap measure should the U.S.-French draft resolution be delayed further.

"Unfortunately, we at this point came to the conclusion that we do not have an immediate prospect of this resolution being accepted," Mr. Churkin said. "War is raging in Lebanon and the humanitarian situation is getting catastrophic."

John Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said the 15-nation Security Council would work into the night to seek agreement on a resolution. The United States and France have played leading roles in drafting it.

"I have not at all given up on the prospect that we might yet vote [today]," he said.

Israel's government has approved a massive expansion of its ground operation in Lebanon, but politicians say they will give diplomatic efforts in New York more time to make progress before fully launching the new invasion, expected to involve as many as 40,000 troops.

Still, deadly fighting and air strikes continued in Lebanon, as did Hezbollah's rocket attacks on northern Israel. The death toll in the conflict now stands at about 1,000 Lebanese civilians, as well as 30 soldiers and policemen killed in the bombings, according to Lebanese authorities, and 123 Israelis, including 40 civilians. Hezbollah has acknowledged the loss of 56 fighters, with allied groups confirming eight more; the Israeli army says it has killed more than 400 Hezbollah militants.

In Beirut, panic spread as an Israeli rocket crashed into an abandoned lighthouse on a hill in the packed neighbourhood of Raouche. The midday attack, which destroyed a radio antenna for state-run Radio Liban and injured two people, was the first time in more than three weeks that the city centre was hit.

Heavy fighting continued in the south, where the Israeli army was reported to have taken control of the Christian town of Marjayoun and was fighting toward the Shia town of Khiam, home to an infamous prison during Israel's 28-year occupation. Israeli forces were reported to have come under heavy fire after initial troops moved into Marjayoun, eight kilometres inside Lebanon. A resident told news agencies that at least two tanks were burning, and Hezbollah claimed to have hit 11 tanks; the Israeli army has not commented.

A coastal road connecting the southern cities of Sidon, Tyre and Nabatiyeh was also bombed again yesterday in an attack that may have severed one of the last connections to the south of the country.

A barely visible ripple of dissent in the country against the conflict seemed to strengthen yesterday as word of the widened ground invasion spread. Israeli officials have said publicly that such an operation would take about a month; others have speculated it could be twice that.

In Tel Aviv, the well-known group Peace Now, which had been largely silent on the conflict in Lebanon, joined leftist political party Meretz for a demonstration of several hundred people. Three of Israel's most prominent authors — A. B. Yehoshua, Amos Oz and David Grossman — also spoke out against an expanded ground invasion.

"Lebanon is our neighbour forever, it isn't Vietnam nor is it some Soviet republic," Mr. Yehoshua told a news conference. "Thus, there's a need to be more careful with it, not to destroy it."

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