Rice Sees Israel-Hezbollah Cease-Fire in "Days, Not Weeks"

By David Shelby and Judy Aita
Washington File Staff Writers

Washington – Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says a cease-fire and lasting settlement in the three-week-old conflict between Israel and Hezbollah likely will come within “days not weeks.”

“I still believe that if we really put our minds to it and work that this week is entirely possible. Certainly we're talking about days not weeks before we are able to get a cease-fire.  It's time to end the violence,” she said in an August 1 interview with PBS television.

She said there should be a cease-fire as soon as it is clear that the U.N. Security Council has formulated a resolution that will support the extension of Lebanese government authority over the entire country.

After intensive discussions in the region with Israeli and Lebanese leaders, Rice sent the matter to the Security Council where U.S. and French diplomats are working on a resolution that would provide for a sustainable ceasefire, introduce a multinational force to support the Lebanese army in south Lebanon, and create a “sustainable and durable” peace that allows Lebanon’s government to operate effectively throughout its territory.

In New York, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton said August 2 that diplomats are working intensively to resolve their differences on the resolution.

"There is near complete agreement on the fundamental political framework that has to be put in place," Bolton said.

The differences are "in approaching a cessation of hostilities and how to make it permanent" the ambassador said.  "This is significant because it underlines the fundamental notion that we do not want to see a return to the status quo ante."

"I don't think that a cease-fire without more is sufficient to lead to a fundamental change to the situation in the region.  But the precise way that this will be done, how many resolutions are involved remains to be seen, in part, because things are changing on the ground as well," Bolton said.

Any Security Council action must lead to a substantial change in the region, he said.

Rice said she does not expect to see a complete change in the political and security situation in south Lebanon before a cease-fire is declared, “but you have to have expectations that that will be the case.  It has to be clear to everyone that that's the basis for a cease-fire or for a cessation of the hostilities.  It has to be clear to everyone that armed groups can't just be allowed to operate in the country in the way that they did.”

Rice said Hezbollah has been operating as an armed state within a state.  “That fact has to be dealt with,” she said.  “You can't have a state within the state, an armed state within the state.  The Lebanese government has to have full authority over its territory; it has to have full authority over all arms and armed people.”

The secretary told Fox News in a separate interview that the Rome conference of the Lebanon Core Group resulted in a consensus that there must be an international stabilization force sent to Lebanon to help the government extend its authority to the south and “get rid of that vacuum into which Hezbollah has flown.”

The council is discussing the nature of the multinational force, but a meeting of potential troop contributing countries set for August 3 has been postponed.

How a cessation of hostilities and cease-fire are worked out will determine the size, composition, and mandate of any peacekeeping mission, Bolton said.

Two different kinds of forces might be needed at different times, he noted, "because the situation at the outset when a force might go in might well be substantially different than one six months later and over the longer term."

Rice said the multinational force would not enter Lebanon until a cease-fire is in place.

The secretary expressed sorrow at the civilian casualties on both sides of the conflict.  She called Israel’s July 30 bombing in Qana, Lebanon, which killed dozens of civilians, many of them children, a “terribly tragic circumstance,” but added, “the fact is, unfortunately, these terrorist organizations are very much bred into these villages and it's very hard to root them out.”  (See related article.)

“I do think that sometimes the very, very tragic pictures and the toll in human lives has an effect on people.  But I think we have to acknowledge that the important thing is to keep clear about what your strategic goals are,” she said.

White House press secretary Snow defined that goal as a situation in which “Hezbollah ceases to operate as an independent militia in the southern part of Lebanon.”

“In other words, what you want to do is comply with the conditions of U.N. Security Council resolution 1559,” he said.  That resolution, adopted in September 2004, called for the disbanding and disarming of all independent militias in Lebanon.

“[U]ltimately, Hezbollah is going to be defeated through a combination of the desire to make sure that they don't have the military capabilities, but also they're going to be defeated politically,” Rice said.  She added that she believes the Lebanese government is prepared to assume its responsibilities vis-à-vis Hezbollah and exert its authority over the entire country.

Security Council President Ambassador Nana Effah-Apenteng of Ghana said that the council is giving the United States and France time to work out their differences and is ready to meet at any time.

"We realize the urgency of the situation but have to face the realities on the ground," Effah-Apenteng said.

Transcripts of Rice’s interviews with PBS and Fox News are available on the State Department Web site.

A transcript of Bolton’s remarks is available on the U.S. Mission to the United Nations Web site.