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Talks for International Force in Lebanon Stall in U.N.

Tapped to lead a multinational force in Lebanon, France postponed negotations Wednesday until a cease-fire agreement is reached. The deputy U.N. secretary-general discusses the current status of diplomatic efforts.

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    As fighting between Israeli troops and Hezbollah intensified this week, so did diplomatic efforts to find a way to end the fighting at the United Nations and in capitals around the globe. But today, three weeks into the conflict, there's still no agreement on how to end it.

    In Brussels yesterday, the 25 foreign ministers of the European Union countries endorsed a resolution calling for "an immediate cessation of hostilities, to be followed by a sustainable cease-fire." The language was milder than that originally sought by France and some others, who wanted an immediate, official cease-fire.

    British Foreign Minister Margaret Beckett spoke afterwards.

  • MARGARET BECKETT, Foreign Secretary, United Kingdom:

    There was a call all the way through for the European Union to be united and effective in getting action to stop the hostilities and to prevent more deaths in the Middle East.

  • URSULA PLASSNIK, Foreign Minister, Austria:

    We have to work for stopping the bloodshed. Dead children do not give security for anybody. And we have to return to a political process and do what we can to contribute to such a return. It cannot be left to those who are exercising violence to the attacks of rockets on one hand and to the bombs on the other side.


    Moderate Arab governments are involved, as well. The Jordanian and Egyptian foreign ministers were in Beirut today, calling for an immediate cease-fire.

  • AHMED ABOUL GHEIT, Foreign Minister, Egypt (through translator):

    We are trying to achieve an immediate cease-fire and will work with the United Nations, the Security Council, and all the effective powers, the European Union, the United States, Russia and China.


    The U.N. Security Council is where Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is now putting Washington's major focus. The U.S. is negotiating with the French and other members on a proposed solution that would combine a cease-fire with longer-term measures insisted upon by the Bush administration. They include a process to disarm Hezbollah and an international force with teeth in southern Lebanon along the Israeli border.

    U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton spoke about the ongoing negotiations outside the Security Council chamber this morning.

    JOHN BOLTON, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations: What we're talking about now is something that will certainly set out the framework of the larger political foundation for a sustainable cease-fire, as we've said repeatedly.

    I don't think that a cease-fire without more is sufficient to lead to a fundamental change in the situation in the region. But the precise way that this will be done, how many resolutions would be involved, remains to be seen, in part because things are changing on the ground, as well.


    Late today at the U.N., a scheduled meeting of potential contributors to an international force was postponed for a second time. France, which is often mentioned as a leader of any such force, said it was pointless to start planning for it before there's a political deal to end the conflict.