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British Leader Says UN Resolution Must Not Leave 'Vacuum' in Lebanon


British Prime Minister Tony Blair is calling for the rapid approval of a U.N. Security Council resolution to halt hostilities in the Middle East. But, the British leader warns against any resolution that might benefit Hezbollah.

In several different interviews with British television outlets, Prime Minister Blair called for the quick passage of a U.N. Security Council resolution that would halt the ongoing fighting between Israel and the Hezbollah militia. But he warned against any resolution that would leave a power vacuum in Lebanon.

"I think we can achieve what the Lebanese government wants to see, as well as what the Israeli government wants to see, which is the government of Lebanon back in full charge of its own territory without us leaving a vacuum in which the Hezbollah militia can move in," he said.

A proposed resolution, drafted by the United States and France, calls for an immediate cease-fire. Diplomats envision a second follow-up resolution that would call for a withdrawal of Israeli forces from Lebanon and their replacement by an international peacekeeping contingent.

The Lebanese government has proposed sending 15,000 of its own troops to southern Lebanon to reassert control over the area after Israeli forces pull out. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has labeled that idea "interesting" and worth studying.

Prime Minister Blair also said that idea has some merit, but says any force deployed to southern Lebanon would have to be international in its makeup.

"This is one of the things we're going to need to discuss with the Lebanese government," said Mr. Blair. "But you're going to need to make sure that it is internationally verified. Now there already is a U.N. force in there, and that U.N. force also can be bolstered."

The British leader, who gave the multiple interviews just before heading for a vacation, downplayed the notion that British troops would be included in any international force.

"I don't think that the idea is for British forces, British ground forces, to be in there," noted Mr. Blair. "I mean, there may be all sorts of different ways we can help. And, incidentally, we will help a lot with humanitarian aid. We will help particularly with things like repairing the infrastructure of Lebanon, where we have a particular expertise there. And there are other assets that we can use in order to help both the Lebanese government and the situation. But for very obvious reasons, particularly with Afghanistan at the moment, you know, we have a lot of commitments."

Britain has 3,600 troops deployed in Afghanistan as part of an expanded NATO mission to root out a resurgent and resilient Taleban movement. There are also over 7,000 British troops in Iraq.

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