Clear Words from Kofi

It is doubtful that Kofi Annan endeared himself to Washington and Tel Aviv by his presentation to the Security Council in the last hour.

While they both are busy trying to resist a ”premature peace”, Kofi Annan called for an immediate cease-fire.

And he was very clear on the damage done to the state of Lebanon. ”One can’t build a state on the ruins of a nation.

But his was also clear in his condemnation of Hezbollah and its kidnapping operation that initiated the fighting.

While Hezbollah says its actions aim to defend Palestinian and Lebanese interests, they ”in fact do neither,” he said. ”On the contrary they hold an entire nation hostage, set back prospects for negotiation of a comprehensive Middle East peace.

While acknowledging Israel’s right to self-defense, Kofi Annan accused it of ”excessive use of force.”

Whatever damage Israel’s operations may be doing to Hezbollah’s military capabilities, they are doing little or nothing to decrease popular support for Hizbollah in Lebanon or the region, but are doing a great deal to weaken the government of Lebanon,”.

In the first major attempt at a diplomatic initiative in the conflict, he called for the these ideas to be pursued in in parallel:

The kidnapped Israeli soldiers should be transferred to Lebanese government authorities, under the control of the International Committee of the Red Cross and with a view to their return to their country.

A larger international peacekeeping force should to be established on the Lebanese side of its border with Israel, and among its task should be working with the Beirut government to strengthen its army.

A ”mechanism” to be established of key regional and international figures to monitor and guarantee implementation of whatever agreement is reached.

And an international conference to delineate Lebanon’s international borders with Syria and with Israel, including the disputed Shebaa Farms area.

This conference would also discuss the difficult issues of ways to help carry out Security Council resolutions calling for the disarming of militias operating on Lebanese soil and for the Lebanese government to extend its authority across all its territory.

Following the Security Council discussions, Kofi Annan is heading for a dinner later today with US Secretary of State Condi Rice and EU High Representative Javier Solana.

In the meantime, commentators from Israel are doing whatever they can to undermine the message from New York, trying to delay and devalue any diplomatic iniative that might come out of the discussions that are now slowly, slowly starting.

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