August 1, 2006

Annan seeks unity on Mideast

By Evelyn Leopold

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Kofi
Annan urged major powers on Tuesday to patch up differences on
the Middle East crisis and rescheduled a meeting of potential
troop contributors for an international force.

Jean-Marie Guehenno, the U.N. undersecretary-general for
peacekeeping, will chair a session on Thursday among nations
who may contribute troops to a stabilization force in southern
Lebanon, the United Nations announced.

That meeting had originally been scheduled for Monday by
Annan, who will be in Haiti and the Dominican Republic this
week starting on Wednesday.

Annan emphasized the need for coordination at a breakfast
with ambassadors from the United States, Britain, France,
Russia and China -- the Security Council members with veto

The secretary-general urged the five to lay their
"differences aside in order to resolve this crisis as soon as
possible," said Ahmad Fawzi, U.N. public affairs director.

A senior U.N. official said Annan was anxious not to see a
split between the United States and France, mentioned as a
leader of the force, as happened before the 2003 Iraq war.

France has distributed a draft Security Council resolution
detailing elements for a sustainable cease-fire, which junior
diplomats intend to discuss later on Tuesday. The United States
is expected to present its own proposals soon.

But the French draft said the force should only be deployed
after a truce and after Israel and Lebanon have "agreed in
principle" on a framework for a permanent cease-fire. The
United States would like the force to be deployed sooner.

Israeli attacks have killed more than 600 people in
Lebanon, most of them civilians, in the past three weeks.
Hizbollah guerrillas have killed 51 Israelis.

Britain's U.N. Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry told reporters
Annan spoke of the necessity for unity in the 15-member council
and said it should act quickly to establish a basis for action.


"We hope we can move forward to get a resolution under
discussion in the council very quickly," Jones Parry said.
"There's a real difference of perception on the ground of what
conditions are needed before a cessation of hostilities."

But he said he doubted there would be a foreign ministers
meeting at the United Nations soon to adopt a resolution,
although he said such a measure could be adopted before the
fighting stopped.

Jones Parry said he foresaw an early truce or cessation of
hostilities, based on an understanding between the parties and
the deployment of an international force. He said at some stage
"the framework for a longer-term solution" had to be put in

Fawzi said he did not expect anyone would commit troops at
the Thursday meeting until a mandate was settled.

Rather, he told reporters, Guehenno would probably lay out
various scenarios, such as whether the current U.N. force in
Lebanon should be beefed up or scrapped altogether, or the size
of a buffer zone new troops would patrol.

Still, a number of nations, including Turkey, Germany and
Greece as well as France have signaled interest, and Ireland,
Argentina and Chile have offered to participate.

A U.N. statement said Annan was "satisfied with the outcome
of the discussions, which permitted clarification of the
critical issues and discussions of timelines."

(Additional reporting by Irwin Arieff)