BEIRUT (AFP) -Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora said that there had been no progress towards a new draft UN Security Council resolution to end the conflict between Hezbollah and Israel.
“There is no progress so far. We are still at the same place,” he told reporters in Beirut on Wednesday after meeting US Middle East envoy David Welch who arrived earlier Wednesday on a surprise visit to the war-torn country.
After talks with other Lebanese leaders, Welch returned to the office of the prime minister for a second meeting but again he made no public remarks when he left.
Parliament speaker Nabih Berri, a close Hezbollah ally, lashed out at Welch after meeting him, dubbing the US diplomat the “great designer of an ugly resolution.”
Berri said he agreed “with Prime Minister Siniora that there is no progress until now.”
The premier said he did not “expect a Security Council meeting today (Wednesday) or tomorrow” over the draft, currently being reviewed by France and the United States.
“The contacts engaged by the Arab delegation in New York did not achieve anything until now,” he said.
French and US diplomats are working on a new draft after Lebanon and Arab nations opposed an earlier text on the grounds that it did not call for Israel to withdraw its troops after a truce or end any but offensive operations.
After an Arab foreign ministers’ meeting in Beirut Monday, Arab League chief Amr Mussa and ministers from Qatar and the United Arab Emirates travelled to UN headquarters in New York to try to modify the text.
French President Jacques Chirac insisted Wednesday on an immediate ceasefire in Lebanon but admitted the United States had “reservations” over the wording of the draft resolution.
Welch also held talks with Berri and Foreign Minister Fawzi Sallukh — both close Hezbollah allies — as well as Defence Minister Elias Murr.
“Shuttle diplomacy continues. Diplomacy will continue to work so that we do not reach a dead-end, diplomacy can break walls,” Sallukh said.
“Discussions continue, the Arab troika in New York continues to hold contacts and meetings with UN officials, and the draft resolution is still a blueprint,” he said.
“There is still time to continue discussions, and we hope for the best, for stability.”
Israel’s security cabinet on Wednesday gave the green light for troops to push further into south Lebanon to fight the Shiite militants of Hezbollah as the conflict entered its fifth week.
The move paves the way for Israeli troops to deploy deeper inside south Lebanon to combat Hezbollah, which has proved a formidable enemy for the Jewish state, inflicting heavy losses on the military and still able to fire off its rockets.
Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Eli Yishai said Wednesday after the security cabinet agreed to expand operations that the offensive could drag on for another month or more.