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Last Updated: Friday, 4 August 2006, 10:45 GMT 11:45 UK
UN locked in resolution wrangle
Negotiations are continuing at the UN in New York on the wording of a resolution urging an end to fighting in Lebanon and Israel. France has circulated a draft proposal, but is still locked in talks. The BBC's James Robbins in New York examines the possible outcomes.

UN talks
The French are most likely to command a multinational force

Wellington described the height of the fighting during his epic battle with Napoleon Bonaparte at Waterloo as "hard pounding".

"Hard pounding" - over words, and plans - is what diplomats at the UN are now locked into.

Although France, the United States and Britain are in broad agreement that calling for an end to violence is the immediate priority, Washington and Paris still differ over precise language - and details of the sequence of events on the ground during any initial ceasefire.

The French ambassador to the UN, Jean Marc de la Sabliere, is cautioning it will take time to get from 95% agreement to 100%.

And it is taking time - three hours of talks on Thursday between Mr de la Sabliere and the United States Ambassador, John Bolton, could not close the gaps.

Toilsome talks

Mr Bolton said differences had been narrowed, but stressed: "We have certainly not reached agreement. We did some creative thinking and we were able to reach something that we can send back to the capitals overnight to get their further instructions."

On Friday, they'll be back talking again.

The US State Department said its diplomats would be instructed to work right through the weekend if necessary.

Their boss, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, hopes to travel to New York, perhaps on Monday, to join other foreign ministers of the 15 countries on the Security Council voting on a resolution, if it can be agreed.

What are the main sticking points? In essence, two divides stand out.

Firstly, how soon should a multinational force be despatched to Lebanon to police a ceasefire and a buffer zone in the south?

The hope remains that the UN will be able to issue the call to end violence within a very few days
France, likely to lead the force, and to be the largest troop contributor, will not go into Lebanon if there is a risk of having to fight its way in. France insisted on a durable ceasefire and a comprehensive political settlement first.

The United States, which will not send troops, would like the force to go in earlier, to ensure a durable ceasefire.

Israel's role

Secondly, what must Israel do? Should its forces be allowed to remain in southern Lebanon until a multinational force is in place, as the Israeli government insists, or will it be obliged to pull back behind Israel's border with Lebanon as soon as an interim ceasefire is declared?

That would leave the Lebanese army the task of moving south to patrol the south of the country, an area the government has previously allowed Hezbollah to control.

The hope remains that the UN will be able to issue the call to end violence within a very few days.

Israeli soldier
Questions remain about Israeli forces staying in Lebanon

Such a Security Council resolution would carry with it the moral authority of the organisation, but also the political authority of the key powers, including, crucially, the United States and France.

The resolution would draw America and Europe together - jointly applying pressure on all sides to stop fighting and work for a Lebanon where the Lebanese government provides the sole armed force, and is able to control all of its sovereign territory.

There are no guarantees any of this can be achieved, but the United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, is urging the Security Council to act "as soon as possible".

Mr Annan says: "I think people in Israel and in Lebanon have suffered enough."

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