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US, France Agree to Draft Resolution on Lebanon

Despite setbacks and delays, diplomats at the United Nations say they expect the Security Council to vote Friday on a French-U.S. sponsored resolution to end the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah.

France and the United States, backed by other key U.N. Security Council members, say they reached agreement Friday on a draft resolution to halt the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah.

The announcement came after a series of meetings between senior diplomats, including U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett, who said she hoped Israel and Lebanon would agree to the resolution.

Israeli officials, who have been given an opportunity to review the draft, were positive about the compromise. The agreement, which has not yet been made public, came after days of haggling over a timetable for the withdrawal of Israeli troops from southern Lebanon.

France has been supporting Beirut's demand that Israeli troops withdraw from southern Lebanon before the Lebanese army is deployed.

The United States, backing Israel's position, wanted the Israeli troops to remain, until the arrival of a multinational force, which the French are expected to lead.

The co-sponsors reportedly agreed on a revision calling for a "progressive" withdrawal of Israeli troops and the simultaneous deployment of the Lebanese army, backed up by an expanded U.N. peacekeeping force.

Before the agreement was announced, Qatar's U.N. envoy, Nassir Abdullaziz Al-Nasser said he was optimistic about the prospects for a compromise. Qatar is the only Arab nation currently on the Security Council.

"I am sure, we will have new language that will satisfy the Lebanese," he said. "We are here to support any new text, which both parties will accept, especially the Lebanese."

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spent the day in New York to push the process, meeting with Secretary General Kofi Annan.