UNITED NATIONS, AP – Lebanon accused the United States on Saturday of blocking a U.N. Security Council statement calling for a cease-fire between Israel and Hezbollah, saying the impotence of the United Nations’ most powerful body sent the wrong signal to small countries and the Arab world.
Israel has killed more than 100 people in a four-day bombardment of Lebanon. The offensive was triggered by a cross-border raid by Hezbollah guerrillas in which eight soldiers were killed and two others were captured. Fifteen Israelis have died in the fighting and the Shiite militant group has been raining rockets on northern Israel.
“It’s unacceptable because people are still under shelling, bombardment and destruction is going on … and people are dying,” said Lebanese special envoy Nouhad Mahmoud.
Qatar, the only Arab nation on the council, received widespread support during closed council consultations late Saturday for a press statement calling for an immediate cease-fire, restraint in the use of force, and the protection of civilians caught in the conflict, council diplomats said.
But Argentina’s U.N. Ambassador Cesar Mayoral said the United States objected to any statement and Britain opposed calling for a cease-fire.
The U.S. and Britain want to wait for the outcome of this weekend’s Group of Eight meeting in Russia, an Arab League foreign ministers meeting, and a mission sent to the Middle East by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Mayoral and other diplomats said.
France’s U.N. Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere, the current council president, confirmed “there was no agreement on a text tonight, but we will meet on Monday.”
“Many delegations would have liked to have a very prompt reaction,” he said. “Others think the spotlight should be elsewhere, not here in the council. ”
But Lebanon’s Mahmoud protested, saying while innocent civilians are killed, “here we are impotent.”
“It sends very wrong signals not only to the Lebanese people but to the Arab people, to all small nations that we are left to the might of Israel and nobody is doing anything,” he said.
Lebanon’s pro-Western government came to power following the February 2005 assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri, which led to Syria ending its 29-year occupation of its smaller neighbor. The Security Council has passed several resolutions promoting the full restoration of Lebanon’s sovereignty and has urged it to deploy troops to the Hezbollah-dominated south to assert control there.
“We have many reasons to expect much more from the Security Council,” said Mahmoud. And from the United States?
“They were always supportive in the last 1 1/2 years, but when it comes to Israel it seems things change,” he said.
In another development, Undersecretary-General for Peacekeeping Jean-Marie Guehenno told reporters that Israel had rescinded a directive that would have restricted the movements of the 2,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon, blocking it from carrying out its observer mission.