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Last Updated: Saturday, 12 August 2006, 04:44 GMT 05:44 UK
UN vote backs Lebanon ceasefire
UN Security Council meeting
Secretary General Kofi Annan criticised the UN for acting slowly
The UN Security Council has unanimously approved a new resolution calling for a ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah.

Resolution 1701 calls for "a full cessation of hostilities", and UN and Lebanese troops to replace Israeli forces in southern Lebanon.

The US Secretary of State said the deal should "open a path to lasting peace between Lebanon and Israel".

Despite the agreement, Israeli strikes continued on Saturday, with reports of several deaths in southern Lebanon.

Israeli officials said Prime Minister Ehud Olmert welcomed the UN resolution, but said strikes would end only when the government formally backed the UN plan.

Planes hit targets in the north and south of Lebanon on Saturday, with reports of deaths in the southern city of Tyre.

This inability to act sooner has badly shaken the world's faith in this authority and its integrity
Kofi Annan
UN Secretary General
Earlier, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said Israel's continuing actions would prepare the ground for an eventual takeover of southern Lebanon by Lebanese and international troops.

The governments of both countries are expected to discuss the resolution at cabinet meetings over the weekend.

Hours before the UN vote, Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert ordered his army to prepare to widen its offensive in southern Lebanon, which officials say will continue until the country's cabinet meets on Sunday.

An adviser to Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora gave the resolution a cautious welcome.

'Expanded force'

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan opened the Security Council session with an impassioned speech, in which he lamented the UN's failure to act sooner to end fighting in the Middle East.

He said the widely perceived delay in drafting a resolution had "badly shaken" global faith in the UN.

The new resolution says Hezbollah must end attacks on Israel while Israel must end "offensive military operations" in Lebanese territory.

Other key points include:

  • Some 15,000 peacekeeping troops for the existing UN Interim Force in Lebanon, Unifil, which will receive a beefed-up mandate to monitor and enforce the ceasefire
  • Lebanon's government asked to deploy troops to the south of the country, previously the domain of Hezbollah fighters
  • Israel required to withdraw troops currently in southern Lebanon as UN and Lebanese forces are deployed
  • Drawing up of plans for the disarmament of Hezbollah and the final settlement of the Israel-Lebanon border area, including the Shebaa farms area claimed by Hezbollah.

The US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, said the strengthened Unifil would not be the same force currently in the region, which currently numbers just 2,000 troops.

The hostilities on both sides should cease immediately now that the resolution has finally been agreed by the whole of the international community
Tony Blair
UK Prime Minister

Unifil would be expanded, given a new mandate and new equipment in order to maintain peace, she told the Security Council.

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair welcomed the resolution, but stressed that fighting should stop immediately following its adoption.

He also announced plans to visit the Middle East as part of a drive to revitalise the stalled peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, Reuters reported.

French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy called the adoption of the resolution "a historic turning point".

However, the foreign minister of Qatar, which currently sits on the Security Council, said the resolution still contained imbalances in favour of Israel.

'Convoy hit'

As the diplomats finalised the draft, Israel radio said troops had been ordered to seize ground as far as the strategic Litani River, up to 30km (18 miles) from the Israeli border.

Israeli soldiers in southern Lebanon

The plan to expand ground operations was approved on Wednesday but was put on hold by Mr Olmert to give more time for diplomacy to bear fruit.

Fresh violence, meanwhile, took a further toll on both Israel and Lebanon on Friday.

At least four people were killed when an Israeli drone attacked a convoy of hundreds of cars fleeing the southern town of Marjayoun, Lebanese witnesses and security officials said.

Earlier, 12 civilians were killed when Israeli jets struck a bridge at crossing on the Lebanon-Syria border, Lebanese sources said, while there were also renewed Israeli air strikes on southern areas of Beirut.

In Israel, several people were wounded when Hezbollah fired several volleys of missiles into the north of the country.

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