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World moves slowly to defuse crisis
BEIRUT: French President Jacques Chirac on Monday backed the idea of an international force to restore order in Lebanon and described Israel's offensive as "aberrant," as his premier paid an emergency visit to the Lebanese capital. Echoing Chirac's comments, French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin urged Hizbullah and Israel to join in a cease-fire and proposed dispatching international monitors to southern Lebanon as part of a settlement to end the bloodshed.
De Villepin's visit is part of diplomatic efforts to end the fighting, as world powers moved to give teeth to the proposed international force for Lebanon.
Following a summit of leaders of the Group of Eight industrial nations, Chirac said that "some means of coercion" may be needed to enforce UN Resolution 1559, which calls for the disarmament of Hizbullah and other militia in Lebanon.
"The application of 1559 is the essential element, and this will probably require some means of coercion," Chirac said.
He said that Israel's attacks on Lebanon had created a "dramatic situation" which would require major reconstruction of Lebanon's infrastructure and had hit ordinary Lebanese.
"This unfortunate population ... is bearing the consequences of behavior which is both violent and aberrant," Chirac said.
"Lebanon's integrity, independence and sovereignty must be recognized," he added.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and German Chancellor Angela Merkel raised the idea of the new military observer force at the G8 summit, with British Prime Minister Tony Blair appearing to back the idea. Russian President Vladimir Putin also indicated Moscow might join in if UN approval were secured.
During a joint news conference with his Lebanese counterpart, Fouad Siniora, De Villepin said a team of international observers should be placed along the frontier to oversee any deal.
"France has proposed sending a monitoring mission which could be deployed or assist the Lebanese government to spread its authority over [its territory] and provide guarantees," he said.
Chirac backed the idea but said it the democratically elected Lebanese government must be allowed to re-establish control over the country.