The U.N. Security Council should delay any action on the escalating conflict between Israel and Lebanon's Hezbollah guerrillas until a U.N. mission now in the Mideast trying to defuse the crisis returns to New York later this week, U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said Monday.
"I think it's very important that with events as unclear and fast-moving as they are that the Security Council not do anything to unsettle the matter further," he told reporters.
Bolton said the U.N. team led by Vijay Nambiar, the special political adviser to Secretary-General Kofi Annan, is expected to return in the middle of the week and he hoped it could brief the council on Thursday.
"That's also, I think, an appropriate time to begin to consider a step the council itself might take," he said before heading into a closed Security Council meeting for a briefing on the Israeli-Hezbollah fighting.
Nambiar, in Beirut on Monday, said he will present Israel with "concrete ideas" about ending the fighting, but also warned that "much diplomatic work needs to be done."
"We have made some promising first efforts on the way forward," he said after meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora.
The leaders of the Group of Eight major powers who met in Russia this weekend asked the Security Council on Sunday to consider the possibility of a U.N. force in Lebanon. Annan and British Prime Minister Tony Blair went a step further Monday calling for the deployment of international forces to end the fighting.
Lebanon accused the United States late Saturday of blocking a Security Council statement calling for a cease-fire. Lebanese special envoy Nouhad Mahmoud said the impotence of the U.N.'s most powerful body sent the wrong signal to small countries and the Arab world.
Lebanon's pro-Western government came to power following the February 2005 assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri, which led to Syria's withdrawal of its forces from its smaller neighbor, ending a 29-year occupation. The Security Council has passed several resolutions promoting the full restoration of Lebanon's sovereignty and has urged it to deploy its military to the south which Hezbollah controls.
Mahmoud said the United States was "always supportive in the last 1 1/2 years, but when it comes to Israel it seems things change."
Asked why the United States did not want a cease-fire, Bolton said the question of Israel's right to self-defense has to be considered very carefully.
"I think before you get to a cease-fire you have to look at what the causes of the conflict are," he said.
"I think you would have a cease-fire in a matter of nanoseconds if Hezbollah and Hamas would release their kidnap victims and stop engaging in rocket attacks and other acts of terrorism against Israel," Bolton said.