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Security Council Passes Resolution To End Fighting in Lebanon

The 15-member UN Security Council has unanimously adopted an American-French resolution calling for a full cessation of hostilities in Lebanon after four weeks of fighting between Israel and Hezbollah.

The Council passed the revised resolution after a day of intense diplomatic activity. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice flew to New York to push for a vote on the revised resolution as did her counterparts from Britain, Denmark, France, Ghana, Greece and Slovakia.

The revised text calls for a full cessation of hostilities based on the immediate cessation of attacks by Hezbollah and the immediate end of all offensive operations by Israel.

Once a truce is established, the resolution calls on Israel to pull its troops out of southern Lebanon "at the earliest" and authorizes up to 15,000 Lebanese troops to work with an enhanced U.N. force to monitor the withdrawal. Secretary of State Rice said the resolution will help the Lebanese government expand its sovereign authority by creating a new international force that builds on UNIFIL, the current UN force in Lebanon.

"Although it bears the same name, this is not the same force. It will be an enhanced UNIFIL, as the government of Lebanon has requested. This new force will have an expanded mandate, a greater scope of operations, better equipment and much larger numbers; a target of 15,000 soldiers, a seven-fold increase in its strength. The Lebanese armed forces together with this new stabilization force will deploy to south of the country to protect the Lebanese people and to insure that no armed groups like Hezbollah can threaten stability," she said.

The resolution stresses that Lebanon must take control over all its territory and disarm all armed groups.

The Security Council came under fire for not taking action sooner from several speakers, including U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. "I would be remiss if I did not tell you how profoundly disappointed I am that the Council did not reach this point much sooner. I am convinced that my disappointment and the sense of frustration is shared by millions of people around the world. All members of this council must be aware that this inability to act sooner has badly shaken the world's faith in its authority and integrity," he said.

Annan said the delay has given extremists new ammunition.

Rice said Hezbollah has dragged Lebanon into a war it did not choose. She said it is now the solemn responsibility of the international community to help the people of Lebanon build a sustainable peace. "The United States has already contributed substantial resources to the humanitarian efforts in Lebanon and Israel and in the critical days and weeks following a cessation of hostilities we plan to do even more beginning now by increasing our immediate assistance to Lebanon to $50 million," she said.

Lebanon's government is expected to discuss the resolution Saturday and the Israeli cabinet will consider it at a meeting Sunday.

A second resolution, expected within one month, will deal with issues such as the release of the two Israeli soldiers whose capture by Hezbollah triggered the conflict.