Russia Offers 72-Hour U.N. Cease-Fire Resolution

Russia circulated a draft U.N. Security Council resolution Thursday that calls for a 72-hour humanitarian cease-fire in Lebanon, saying the crisis was reaching "catastrophic" proportions and was too urgent to wait for passage of a separate U.S.-French measure.

This comes after U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said there could be a vote Friday on a U.N. resolution aimed at ending the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict.

"This diplomatic activity is not being conducted in a quiet academic environment," Russia's U.N. ambassador Vitaly Churkin said. "War is raging in Lebanon and the humanitarian situation is getting catastrophic."

He said that U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan supported the Russian proposal for a 72-hour cease-fire.

The Russian ambassador said his proposal would also call for diplomats to speed up their efforts to seek a political solution.

"We hope it will focus minds, it will energize politicians and diplomats," Churkin said.

Responding to the Russian draft, Bolton said he did not think it was helpful to distract attention from negotiations over the U.S.-French draft.

"We're not playing games here," he said. "This is very serious."

Meanwhile, the United States and France tried to bridge differences Thursday over a timetable for an Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon and reach agreement on a U.N. resolution that would end the month-long conflict between Israel and Hezbollah militants.

As international pressure intensified for the U.N. Security Council to finally take action that would stop the fighting, the U.S. and French ambassadors who co-sponsored the resolution met with their Russian, Chinese and British counterparts to discuss the latest draft.

The ambassadors emerged saying there were still differences and tricky issues to be resolved, but Bolton and his Chinese colleague held out the possibility that the problems could be resolved Thursday so the resolution could be put in final form for a vote on Friday.

Before that is done, however, the Americans and French want to make sure that a resolution is acceptable to the Israelis and the Lebanese, who rejected their original draft circulated on Saturday.

A diplomatic source told FOX News that the current meeting between the U.S. and French ambassadors could possibly determine the language that will be put "in blue" — or the final version — of a resolution.

The official says what remains to be determined is whether the resolution will come under "Chapter 6" of the U.N. charter or "Chapter 7," the latter being the one that authorizes use of force.

According to the official, Lebanon is reluctant to accept a new resolution that would authorize foreign troops to shoot at Hezbollah. France wants the resolution to come under Chapter 7 since it wants French soldiers to be able to protect themselves; while the U.S. and Israel want Chapter 7 to ensure Hezbollah will disarm one way or another.

The U.S. and French ambassadors met with Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who had spoken to Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora earlier Thursday. Bolton and France's Jean-Marc de La Sabliere then met again, and another meeting of the five permanent council members was expected late Thursday.

"We're still in conversation and still hoping to reach agreement so we can move as soon as possible," Bolton said.

Bolton said that it is "not unrealistic" that draft resolution would be put "in blue" later Thursday, "but there are no guarantees of it either."

China's deputy U.N. ambassador Liu Zhenmin was more optimistic when asked the chances of the text going into its final form. "It's a good chance," he said.

Liu said Bolton and de La Sabliere were going to be working to produce a united text.

"We have urged them to produce something combined ... to produce something which could be acceptable not only to the council members but also to both parties to the conflict," he said.

France is backing Lebanon's call for Israeli troops to start pulling out once hostilities end and when Lebanon deploys 15,000 troops of its own in the south. The United States is supporting Israel's insistence on staying in southern Lebanon until a robust international force is deployed, which could take weeks or months.

At a meeting of the five permanent members Wednesday evening, France presented the latest language in the draft resolution, a Security Council diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the meeting was closed.

One key amendment "calls upon the government of Lebanon, upon cessation of hostilities, to start deploying its armed forces throughout the south as the Israeli army starts withdrawing," in coordination with U.N. peacekeepers who are already in southern Lebanon, the diplomat said.

A second resolution is expected to authorize a robust international force, possibly led by France, to help implement a cease-fire agreement.

Russia's Churkin was more cautious when asked about the prospect of putting the resolution now being debated in its final form on Thursday.

"There is a fairly lengthy text which is quite ambitious, but it does contain a number of difficult issues which have to be worked out," he said.

The U.S.-French draft circulated Saturday calls for "a full cessation of hostilities," with Hezbollah immediately stopping all attacks and Israel ending offensive military operations. But Israel would still be allowed to take defensive action and there is no call for the withdrawal of its troops from southern Lebanon, Hezbollah's stronghold.

Lebanon opposed the draft, saying it favored Israel too strongly, a view that Hezbollah backed on Wednesday.

The Lebanese government demanded that the cessation of hostilities must be complete — including all Israeli military activity — and said all Israeli troops must leave when the fighting stops. It warned that their presence would be viewed as a new occupation and cited Hezbollah's threat to shoot at any Israeli soldiers in the country.

French President Jacques Chirac on Wednesday said the draft should be revised to take into account Lebanese and Arab demands for changes. If the United States and France do not reach agreement, he said France might introduce its own resolution.

Bolton said the United States believes Lebanon's decision to deploy the army in the south "is significant and we are going to take account of that in the resolution." But he said the strategic issue remains how to ensure that Hezbollah does not "re-infiltrate the southern part of Lebanon."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.