Saturday, July 29, 2006

A little good news out of Lebanon

This peace proposal sounds pretty good except for one glaring omission. There must be weapons inspectors in the south. That may be implicit, but everyone has to know the guerrillas have laid down their arms. Then there's the matter of Chebaa Farms, but that appears potentially reconcilable.
Hezbollah politicians, while expressing reservations, have joined their critics in the government in agreeing to a peace package that includes strengthening an international force in south Lebanon and disarming the guerrillas, the government said.

The agreement — reached after a heated six-hour Cabinet meeting — was the first time that Hezbollah has signed onto a proposal for ending the crisis that includes the deploying of international forces.

The package falls short of American and Israeli demands in that it calls for an immediate cease-fire before working out details of a force and includes other conditions.

But European Union officials said Friday the proposals form a basis for an agreement, increasing the pressure on the United States to call for a cease-fire.

The details:
It starts out with an immediate cease-fire. Following that would come:

• the release of Lebanese and Israeli prisoners; Israeli withdrawal behind the border; the return of Lebanese displaced by the fighting.

• moves to resolve the status of Chebaa Farms, a small piece of land held by Israel and claimed by Lebanon. The proposal calls for the
U.N. Security Council to commit to putting the area under U.N. control until a final demarcation of the border.

• the provision by Israel of maps of minefields laid during its 18-year occupation of the south.

• "the spreading of Lebanese government authority over the entire country," meaning the deployment of the Lebanese army in the south, with the strengthening and increasing of the small, lightly armed U.N. peacekeeping force currently there.

The provisions do not spell out the order in which the steps must take place, but Saniora has said the government cannot spread its authority in the south unless the Chebaa farms issue is resolved. Israel's hold on Chebaa has provided Hezbollah with a rationale to maintain its arsenal and its "resistance" against Israel.

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