JERUSALEM (Mar. 12)
The secretary-general of the United Nations is denying reports that he has a plan for an Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon.
Speaking in New York, Kofi Annan was quoted as saying that there already is a mediator for the Middle East — the United States.
His remarks followed an Israeli media report that Annan planned to bring with him a proposal for resolving the dispute over southern Lebanon when he visits the region this month.
Israel’s Channel Two television reported this week that the five-point plan had a decent possibility of being accepted by Israel, Lebanon and Syria.
According to the report, the plan includes:
Israel’s acceptance of United Nations Security Council Resolution 425, which calls for a troop withdrawal from southern Lebanon. Israel maintains a nine- mile-wide security zone in southern Lebanon to protect its northern settlements;
immediate deployment of Lebanese army troops in the areas from which Israel pulls out;
continued monitoring of the agreements reached after the 1996 Operation Grapes of Wrath, in which Israel launched an assault in order to stop Hezbollah’s cross-border attacks;
widening the U.N. peacekeeping mandate in South Lebanon; and
the opening of talks among the parties.
In response to the report, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had not received any details of such an initiative.
The U.N. secretary-general’s trip, scheduled from March 17-26, includes stops in Jordan, Egypt, Israel, Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinian autonomous areas.