The sides involved in diplomatic negotiations for a UN-brokered cease-fire resolution aimed at ending the war in Lebanon reached a breakthrough Thursday, paving the way for the deploying of international forces in Lebanon. The UN Security Council will convene Friday to discuss the new proposal, which has been agreed to by the United States as well as France.
The sides are currently putting the finishing touches on the final wording of the resolution.
Both the US and French envoys to the UN briefed Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the progress in talks.
At the United Nations, U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said there could be a vote Friday on the resolution. "We're making progress and it's entirely possible we could have a vote tomorrow," Bolton said after a meeting with his French counterpart, Jean-Marc de La Sabliere. "We've closed some of the areas of disagreement with the French."
The terms of the resolution were agreed upon following talks between the five permanent members of the Security Council - U.K., France, U.S., Russia, and China. The deal was coordinated with Israel and apparently with the Lebanese government.
In his attempts to advance the cease-fire, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State David Welch departed Beirut on Thursday and arrived in Israel, where he updated Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on the latest diplomatic developments. The resolution will not call the peacekeepers to disarm Hizbullah but will call for an embargo to prevent the group from bringing in arms from Iran and Syria, a senior Israeli official said on Thursday.
The official added the resolution would also call for creation of "an emboldened UNIFIL", the UN force currently in Lebanon and long derided by Israel as ineffective. But the official said: "The (international) force will not have any mandate to disarm Hizbullah."
The revised draft calls for a "progressive" Israeli withdrawal from south Lebanon, a senior Lebanese political source said on Thursday. "The Americans have moved their position. A deal with the French is very close in the next hours, but most likely on Friday," he told Reuters.
"The breakthrough is based on the inclusion in the call for a cessation of hostilities for a progressive Israeli withdrawal from Lebanese territory to go simultaneously with the deployment of the Lebanese army backed by reinforced UN peacekeepers."
The source said the peacekeepers would mainly be reinforced by French soldiers. As part of the deal, Hizbullah would pull out from south of the Litani river.
After 30 days, the source said, there would be a more comprehensive resolution that declares a ceasefire and sets out solutions for the Shebaa Farms issue, the release of captive Israeli soldiers, the release of Lebanese prisoners and the disarming of Hizbullah.