TOPICS > Politics

U.S. Urges Vote on Draft Resolution to End Israeli-Hezbollah Fighting

August 7, 2006 at 6:15 PM EDT
LISTEN SEE PODCASTS

TRANSCRIPT

MARGARET WARNER: While the war in the Middle
East was intensifying today, President Bush and Secretary of State
Rice held a news conference on diplomatic efforts to end the crisis. The
president began by describing the draft U.N. resolutions that the U.S.
and France agreed to this weekend.

GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States: The first resolution,
which the Security Council is now considering, calls for a stop of all
hostilities.

Under its terms: Hezbollah will be required to immediately
stop all attacks; Israel will be required to immediately stop all offensive
military operations; and, in addition, the resolution calls for an embargo on
the shipment of any arms into Lebanon, except as authorized by the Lebanese
government.

A second resolution, which the Security Council will begin
working on as soon as possible, will help establish a sustainable and enduring
cease-fire and provide a mandate for a robust international force that will
help the legitimate government of Lebanon
extend its authority over all of Lebanon’s territory. Under the
second resolution, the Lebanese armed forces, supported by the international
force, will deploy to southern Lebanon.

This international force will help Lebanon patrol its border with Syria and prevent illegal arms
shipments to Hezbollah. As these Lebanese and international forces deploy, the
Israeli Defense Forces will withdraw and both Israel
and Lebanon
will respect the blue line that divides them.

JOURNALIST: Lebanon
has rejected the draft proposal, and Israel is not speaking out in
support of it. How do you get a resolution that both sides will support?

GEORGE W. BUSH: The intent of the resolution is to make sure
that we address the root cause — the resolutions to address the root cause,
which was a state operating within the state. Hezbollah was or is an armed
movement that provoked the crisis. And so whatever comes out of the resolutions
must address that root cause.

And so the task today for the secretary and her counterparts
is to develop a resolution that can get passed. It is essential that we create
the conditions for the Lebanese government to move her own forces, with
international help, into the south of Lebanon to prevent Hezbollah and its
sponsors from creating another crisis. And so that’s where we’re headed.

But we will work with our partners to get the resolution
laid down as quickly as possible, and the resolution will call for a cessation
of violence.

Getting to the root of the problem

JOURNALIST: Many strategists say that we'll never get to thebottom of this crisis unless the U.S.engages directly with Syriaand Iran.Why not talk to them directly about this and have a back-and-forthconversation?

GEORGE W. BUSH: We have been in touch with Syria. Colin Powell sent a messageto Syriain person. Dick Armitage traveled to Syria. Bill Burns traveled to Syria.We've got a consulate office in Syria.

Syriaknows what we think. The problem isn't us telling Syria what's on our minds, which isto stop harboring terror and to, you know, help the Iraqi democracy evolve. Theyknow exactly what our position is.

The problem is, is that their response hasn't been verypositive. As a matter of fact, it hasn't been positive at all.

In terms of Iran,we made it clear to the Iranians that, if they would honor previous obligationsand verifiably stop enrichment of nuclear materials, we would sit at a table. Sothere's a way forward for both countries; the choice is theirs.

Now, you know, I appreciate people focusing on Syria andIran, and we should, because Syria and Iran sponsor and promote Hezbollahactivities all aimed at creating chaos, all aimed at using terror to stop theadvance of democracies. You know, our objective, our policy is to give voice topeople through democratic reform.

JOURNALIST: Mr. President, what are the specific stumblingblocks that are preventing this first resolution from being passed quickly? Whatare the people -- what are the parties objecting to in the language that needsto be altered?

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, U.S. Secretary of State: There is moreagreement than you might think about how to prevent, again, a situation inwhich you have a state within a state able to launch an attack across the blueline.

For instance, there is agreement that the Lebanesegovernment needs to extend its authority throughout the country, that it needsto have the Lebanese armed forces move to take care of this vacuum that hasbeen existing in the south, that there should not be any armed groups able justto operate in the south in the way that Hezbollah has been able to operate inthe south, that there ought to be respect for the blue line.

These are all agreements between the two parties. And sothere is going to be some pressure from both sides to get things onto theagenda because they want to get them onto the agenda. But I think we have areasonable basis here that both sides can accept; I think there are some issuesof timing and sequence that need to be worked out.

There are some concerns about when an international forcewould actually be available, but everybody agrees it's time to have acessation. We're going to work a little bit more with the parties, and I thinkthis resolution will be the right basis, both to cease the hostilities and tomove forward.

JOURNALIST: Lebanon's parliament's speaker, Nabih Berri,who's been negotiating for Hezbollah, has rejected the first resolutions sayingit's unacceptable. They want the Israeli troops to pull out immediately; isthat a negotiable point?

GEORGE W. BUSH: Whatever happens in the U.N., we must notcreate a vacuum into which Hezbollah and its sponsors are able to move moreweapons. The idea is to have the Lebanese government move into the south sothat the government of Lebanoncan protect its own territory and that there be an international force toprovide the help necessary for the Lebanese government to secure its country.

Negotiating a peace

MARGARET WARNER: And Ray Suarez has more on the diplomaticefforts.

RAY SUAREZ: For the latest on negotiations under way at theUnited Nations, we talk to Colum Lynch, correspondent for the Washington Post.

Colum, as details have emerged about the proposedresolution, what's been the reaction among the member states?

COLUM LYNCH, U.N. Correspondent, Washington Post: Well, it'sbeen varied, as you can see. Lebanonand its supporters in the Arab world have objected to a number of elements,primarily the fact that Israelwould not be required to withdraw from southern Lebanon immediately.

The Americans and the French, the chief sponsors of thisresolution, have generally gained broad support throughout the rest of the councilfor this resolution for its swift passage. The only sort of question markaround this is what position Russiawould take.

Russia,over the last couple of days, its envoy, Vitaliy Churkin, has expressed someconcern about adopting a resolution that doesn't have the support of bothparties. They haven't threatened to cause trouble; they haven't begun tonegotiate in earnest on behalf of the Lebanese. But if Russia's concerns are notaddressed, that could cause real problems and really delay this process, butthey're a bit of a wild card at this point.

RAY SUAREZ: Well, remind people about why the Russians areso important in the Security Council vote.

COLUM LYNCH: Well, the Russians, as you know, have a vetopower. So no resolution gets through the council if Russia says no, if it decides tovote against it.

RAY SUAREZ: This was such a difficult negotiations, I guessthere's no chance, is there, that there could be modifications still madebefore a vote to reflect some of those Arab nation objections?

COLUM LYNCH: Well, you never say it's impossible until it'sdone. I mean, the Arabs, first of all, don't have veto power. The lone Arabcountry on the council, Qatar, has been acting essentially on behalf ofLebanon, but it's not clear whether they're just trying to negotiate a somewhatbetter deal and, at the end of the day, they will support this resolution.

But I think that, you know, essentially, this is a sort ofresolution that could possibly get through with some changes. And there was animportant announcement by the Lebanese government today that they're willing tosend 15,000 Lebanese soldiers into southern Lebanon to essentially fill thevoid that, you know, they hope and that the international community hopes wouldbe left by a departure by Hezbollah.

It's not at all clear that they will be able to deploy. Theyhave been committed to deploying in the region for many years and haven't doneit. Whether this is a serious offer or not will have to be taken into account,but it's certain that this idea is likely to sort of be integrated into thisdiscussion in the Security Council.

RAY SUAREZ: While it's only Security Council members thathave a vote, when there's such an important resolution coming before the council,do members of the General Assembly start just speaking out? Do member statesmake their views known to reporters like you?

COLUM LYNCH: Generally they do make their views known. However,often when there are sort of a clamor for public discussion, there is anopportunity to open up the Security Council for a sort of open public debatewhich allows every government, all the 192 members of the U.N., to participatein that.

It could be that the discussion tomorrow -- there's adelegation headed by the Arab League tomorrow by its secretary general, AmrMoussa, this could provide a sort of forum for others to express their views. Sothere's plenty of opportunity to do it without going to the General Assembly. AndI'm not aware of any effort at the moment to take this up in the GeneralAssembly.

A slow process

RAY SUAREZ: Is it yet clear when there will be a vote onthis proposal?

COLUM LYNCH: Not clear at all. Secretary Rice was hoping tocome into town tonight to get passage of the resolution tomorrow. Initiallythey had hoped to do it last week. Now, with the arrival of the Arabdelegation, it's not going to happen tomorrow.

The earliest possible date is Wednesday, possibly Thursday,but then again, as I mentioned, if the Russians start to express seriousreservations about the resolution, that could turn this into a protracteddiscussion that could go on for many weeks.

RAY SUAREZ: Well, as the president explained it, this is atwo-phase proposal and you can't get the international force in there until youget that first resolution passed. Why the slow movement on this thing?

COLUM LYNCH: Well, there are important, you know, sort ofissues being debated in this resolution. It's not just about a cessation ofhostilities; it basically outlines a kind of road forward.

And a lot of the issues that are dealt with -- I mean, forexample, the whole question of the fact that the resolution doesn't requireIsrael to withdraw, I think that, from the Lebanese side, they're sort ofwondering, "Well, what if we go on for weeks, and months, and foreverwithout reaching the next resolution? What if there is no political agreement? Imean, does that mean the Israelis can stay in here indefinitely?"

RAY SUAREZ: Well, now that there's something on paper thatat least in some vague way describes the international force, is there any morewisdom around the United Nations about who's going to be in it, how big it'sgoing to be, and the circumstances under which it could enter southern Lebanon?

COLUM LYNCH: Well, this is another very serious issue. Imean, no one is going to send troops in there first of all to disarm, toforcibly disarm Hezbollah. France, which is likely to lead such a force, hasmade it clear that it doesn't believe that that's possible. So that's the sortof initial problem.

I mean, there will be discussion. Countries probably willsign up. But then there's the other problem which is Lebanon has indicated thatit doesn't want an international force. It doesn't mind a U.N. blue-helmetedforce being expanded, but it doesn't want a big foreign, European-led force.

They said it looks too -- it sort of reeks ofneocolonialism. They say that it would be rejected by Hezbollah. Hezbollah'stwo key backers outside of Lebanon, Iran and Syria, have also sort of fiercelyobjected to the notion of an international force.

RAY SUAREZ: Colum Lynch from the U.N., thanks a lot.

COLUM LYNCH: Thanks for having me.