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UN vote on Lebanon cease-fire expected


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U.N. vote on Lebanon cease-fire resolution expected

 

UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- France and the United States said Friday they have agreed on a final text of a resolution that could end the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah in southern Lebanon.

 

It was distributed to the full U.N. Security Council in a closed-door session that began about 3 p.m. ET. Key Security Council members are hoping for a vote later Friday.

 

The resolution contains a "very robust mandate" for the use of an international peacekeeping force, a U.N. State Department official said.

 

In the Lebanese capital, Beirut, sources close to the negotiations said the deal would create a 400-square-mile zone inside Lebanon from which Hezbollah militia would be excluded.

 

Under the draft resolution, the number of U.N. troops in the area would be increased from 2,000 to a maximum of 15,000; they would be joined by 15,000 Lebanese troops.

 

The troops are charged with ensuring Hezbollah doesn't operate between the Blue Line, which marks the Lebanese border with Israel, and the Litani River, according to the draft.

 

The Associated Press, quoting an individual close to the Israeli government, said there's a "good chance" Israel would accept the new cease-fire proposal.

 

Lebanese government officials, cited by the AP, said Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora was studying the document and contacting politicians in his country for their input.

 

Earlier Friday, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had ordered an expanded military offensive in Lebanon under the belief that the U.N. resolution did not satisfy Israeli security concerns, Olmert's spokesman, Asaf Shariv, told AP.

 

But even as Israeli forces massed along the border with Lebanon, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev told AP that Israel was still open to a negotiated solution.

 

"Our action does not exclude a diplomatic option. On the contrary, we are following developments in New York closely," he said.

 

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan prodded the Security Council to act by week's end "to save civilians on both sides from the nightmare they have endured for the past four weeks." (Watch why Arabs are leaving Israel -- 2:42)

 

Israel's Security Cabinet earlier this week approved the expanded offensive, which Olmert ordered Friday. Under the plan, Israeli troops could push up to the Litani River, 18 miles (29 kilometers) inside Lebanon.

War in 31st day

 

At least two people were killed and 20 others wounded when an Israeli airstrike hit a convoy of Lebanese Army and civilian vehicles, Lebanese security sources said.

 

The convoy initially consisted of 80 Lebanese security force vehicles carrying more than 350 people, as well as about 100 civilian vehicles. Other civilian vehicles joined it later, officials said.

 

The civilians, many of whom had been trapped in southern Lebanon for weeks, went to the Lebanese Army base in Marjeyoun on Thursday in hopes of receiving safe passage away from the violence.

 

The convoy left Marjeyoun after fighting there earlier in the day. It was in the Bekaa Valley town of Kefraya when it was hit, sources said.

 

Many of the vehicles were on fire, and emergency personnel couldn't reach the wounded because of other Israeli airstrikes in the area, sources said.

 

The Israel Defense Forces said it had no information on the strike but added that it didn't authorize any convoy to leave Marjeyoun.

 

A spokesman for the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon, Milos Strugar, said UNIFIL received a security clearance from the IDF and was escorted out of Marjeyoun by the IDF.

 

Earlier in the day, Hezbollah TV reported that Hezbollah forces destroyed an Israeli gunboat off the coast of Tyre, Lebanon, killing or wounding a crew of 12, the AP reported.

 

The Israeli military denied Hezbollah's claim, the AP said.

 

The southern suburbs of Beirut were rocked Friday by at least 11 explosions from Israeli airstrikes.

 

In the northern part of the country, Israeli airstrikes on a bridge near the Syrian border killed 11 Lebanese civilians and wounded 13, according to Lebanon's security forces. The bridge was between Abboudiyeh and the Aarida crossing, sources said.

 

Israelis forces occupied the base in the largely Christian town Thursday as they moved toward a nearby area where Hezbollah fighters reportedly fired rockets into Israel, said Lebanese military intelligence and Lebanese police. (Watch as Israel puts more pressure on Hezbollah -- 2:49)

 

Thirty-one days of fighting have killed 123 Israelis, including 40 civilians, and 861 Lebanese, mostly civilians, according to authorities in those countries.

 

The conflict began July 12. Israeli attacks were prompted by the Shiite Muslim militia Hezbollah kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers in a raid into northern Israel.

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