HAIFA (March 12) - UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is reported to be secretly drawing up a proposal that would enable the withdrawal of the IDF from southern Lebanon and that would be acceptable to Israel, Lebanon, and Syria.
According to reports, Annan will be bringing the proposal when he visits the region in less than two weeks. He is scheduled to visit Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority, and Israel.
Annan was hosted at a meeting at the White House by President Bill Clinton yesterday.
There have been reports in the Lebanese press that Annan will be coming with a proposal based on Security Council Resolution 425, which calls for the withdrawal of Israeli forces from south Lebanon, for the Lebanese government to reassert effective authority over the region, and for the restoration of international peace and security.
According to Channel 2 news, Annan's proposal consists of five main clauses: Israel's acceptance of 425; the Lebanese Army would deploy in areas vacated by the IDF and Hizbullah; the Grapes of Wrath understandings would continue; UNIFIL would be significantly expanded; and Israel would work for peace accords with Syria and Lebanon.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was asked in the television report about the reported Annan proposal. "I have not received any details about this, so it's too early to say," Netanyahu was quoted as saying. "But if a proposal were to be made in relation to our recent initiatives, proposals which fit with our security, I would certainly view it with interest."
UNIFIL spokesman Timur Goksel said that "UNIFIL is not aware of any secret initiative by the secretary-general."
Syria, meanwhile, claims that it has thwarted Israel's efforts to create a split between it and Lebanon by proposing a withdrawal. Newspapers in Damascus maintained that the united front displayed by Lebanon and Syria had also foiled Israel's attempts to seek European support for the initiative.
Nevertheless, other reports said that Lebanese leaders had made it clear in meetings with a senior US official that Lebanon could not accept Israel's terms, although it would not be in a position to refuse if the proposal were to come from the UN.
In the security zone, two IDF soldiers were lightly wounded in an Hizbullah mortar and anti-tank missiles attack on the Dlatt position on Tuesday night. They were taken to Haifa's Rambam Hospital.
The Grapes of Wrath monitoring group is continuing its discussions on complaints by Israel and Lebanon over recent breaches of the understandings.
Jay Bushinsky adds:
The cabinet held its first meeting on the proposed withdrawal from southern Lebanon yesterday, hearing experts on the Syrian and Lebanese governments' attitudes.
It could not be determined, on the basis of the data presented, whether the Lebanese authorities genuinely seek the IDF's departure or whether the Lebanese Army has the capability to control the area.