UN "stands by" while Lebanese die: Arab League

Date: 08-08-06

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - An Arab League delegation accused the Security Council on Tuesday of standing by idly while weeks of fighting between Israel and Lebanon's Hizbollah sow "the seeds of hatred and extremism" in the Middle East.

There was "a danger of civil war in Lebanon" if the council adopted a resolution aimed at ending the conflict without fully considering its ramifications, said Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabr al-Thani, the head of a three-man Arab League delegation.

The Arab League team was in New York to ask the 15-nation council to amend a U.S.-French draft resolution aimed at a truce in the four-week conflict.

The delegation flew to New York from an Arab foreign ministers meeting in Beirut on Monday at which Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said the resolution would do little to quell the violence.

"It is most saddening that the council stands idly by, crippled, unable to stop the blood bath which has become the bitter daily lot of the defenseless Lebanese people," the Qatari foreign minister told the council.

"What is happening will sow the seeds of hatred and extremism in the area and provide a pretext for those who feel that the international community is taking sides and lacks fairness as to this dispute," he said.

Lebanon's acting foreign minister, Tareq Mitri, said the draft resolution not only fell short of meeting many of his government's demands "but it may not bring about the results the international community wants."

He said Lebanon needed an immediate cease-fire and a quick withdrawal of Israeli forces and he also requested "the assistance of additional forces to enhance the United Nations force" in southern Lebanon.

"More than 900 lives ago, we asked for an immediate cease-fire," Mitri said. "More than 3,000 injured civilians ago, we asked for an immediate cease-fire."

But Israeli U.N. Ambassador Dan Gillerman said the critical test faced by the council was not whether it could adopt a resolution but "whether the council and international community can adopt a course of action ... which will end the threat that Hizbollah and its sponsors pose to Israel and Lebanon."

"The issue in this crisis is not territory but terror," he said, accusing Iran and Syria of training and funding Hizbollah fighters and directing their actions.

An acceptable settlement of the crisis would also require "a strong and robust international force," Gillerman added.

The four-week old war between Israel and Hizbollah guerrillas has cost the lives of around 1,000 Lebanese and 101 Israelis.


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