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Annan urges unity on peace strategy

Asks key powers to put differences aside for cease-fire

UNITED NATIONS -- UN Secretary General Kofi Annan urged major powers yesterday to patch up differences on the Middle East crisis and rescheduled a meeting of potential troop contributors for an international force.

Jean-Marie Guehenno, the UN undersecretary general for peacekeeping, will chair a session tomorrow among nations that may contribute troops to a stabilization force in southern Lebanon, the United Nations announced.

That meeting had been scheduled for Monday by Annan, who will be in Haiti and the Dominican Republic this week starting today.

Annan emphasized the need for coordination at a breakfast with ambassadors from the United States, Britain, France, Russia, and China -- the Security Council members with veto power.

The secretary general urged the five to lay their ``differences aside in order to resolve this crisis as soon as possible," said Ahmad Fawzi, UN public affairs director.

A senior UN official said Annan was anxious not to see a split between the United States and France, mentioned as a leader of the force, as happened before the 2003 Iraq war.

France has distributed a draft Security Council resolution detailing elements for a sustainable cease-fire, which junior diplomats from the 15 council members discussed yesterday at France's mission to the UN. Talks are planned to resume today. The United States has not yet presented its own proposals.

The French draft says the force should only be deployed after a truce and after Israel and Lebanon have ``agreed in principle" on a framework for a permanent cease-fire. The United States would like the force to be deployed sooner.

Israeli attacks have killed more than 600 people in Lebanon, most of them civilians, in the past three weeks. Hezbollah guerrillas have killed 51 Israelis.

British UN Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry said Annan spoke of the necessity for unity in the 15-member council and said it should act quickly.

``We hope we can move forward to get a resolution under discussion in the council very quickly," Jones Parry said. ``There's a real difference of perception on the ground of what conditions are needed before a cessation of hostilities."

But he said he doubted there would be a foreign ministers meeting at the UN soon to adopt a resolution, although he said such a measure could be adopted before the fighting stopped.

Jones Parry said he foresaw an early truce or cessation of hostilities, based on an understanding between the parties and the deployment of an international force. He said at some stage ``the framework for a longer-term solution" had to be put in place.

Fawzi said he did not expect anyone would commit troops at tomorrow's meeting until a mandate was settled.

Rather, he said, Guehenno would probably lay out various scenarios, such as whether the current UN force in Lebanon should be beefed up or scrapped altogether, or the size of a buffer zone new troops would patrol.

Still, a number of nations, including Turkey, Germany, and Greece as well as France have signaled interest, and Ireland, Argentina, and Chile have offered to participate.

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