UNITED NATIONS, Aug 12 (Agencies): The UN Security Council unanimously approved a resolution Friday that calls for a halt to the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah and authorises the deployment of 15,000 foreign troops to help the Lebanese army take control of southern Lebanon.
The resolution calls on Israel to begin withdrawing all its forces from Lebanon "in parallel" with the deployment of UN peacekeepers and 15,000 Lebanese troops. It gives the international force the mandate to use firepower but no explicit role in disarming Hezbollah, leaving the fate of the militia to a future political settlement.
Israel and Lebanon agreed to accept the terms of the U.N. cease-fire, according to US and UN diplomats. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will ask his cabinet to approve the resolution when it meets Sunday, according to Israeli officials. The Lebanese cabinet is scheduled to vote on it Saturday.
Meanwhile another report from Jerusalem adds, Israel's army chief said Saturday that Israel has tripled the number of forces in Lebanon, as part of its expanded ground offensive, and will keep fighting until a cease-fire is implemented.
The army chief, Lt. Gen.
Dan Halutz, spoke hours after the UN Security Council approved a cease-fire resolution. Israel's Cabinet is to vote on the deal on Sunday.
Halutz said he believes the ground offensive can continue for another week. He said Israeli troops would stay in Lebanon until international forces arrive, as part of the cease-fire deal.
The US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice said the cease-fire will not go into effect immediately. She said U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan will consult with Israel and Lebanon in the coming days to set a date for the cessation of hostilities.
"No one can expect an immediate end to all acts of violence," Rice said. She cautioned that "the conditions of a lasting peace must be nurtured over time."
But a UN envoy to the Middle East said Saturday he hoped the first contingent of UN peacekeepers would deploy in Lebanon in coming days, but cautioned that no timetable has been set yet.
The envoy, Alvaro de Soto, said the deployment would take place in tandem with the stationing of Lebanese forces along the Israel-Lebanon border.
The resolution provides the first significant hope for a gradual reduction in the violence - and potentially an end to the monthlong conflict, which has killed more than 800 Lebanese and 122 Israelis. Fighting continued Friday, with Israeli warplanes strafing vehicles evacuating people from the town of Marjayoun, killing four people, and with Hezbollah firing 124 rockets into Israel but causing no casualties.
Annan said the United Nations' failure to act sooner had "badly shaken the world's faith" in the body. "I would be remiss if I did not tell you how profoundly disappointed I am that the council did not reach this point much, much earlier," he said.
The United Nations will hold talks on the peacekeeping force today to determine the type of forces to be used and which countries will contribute.
The force will have to be deployed faster than any previous UN force, according to sources familiar with past operations. Although its size has been determined, its structure and the types of units needed have not. An enormous amount of work will have to be done quickly even to get the initial units to Beirut and then to southern Lebanon.
Jordan's prime minister called a UN cease-fire plan a critical "first step," and Turkey suggested on Saturday that it could send peacekeeping troops as Arab and Muslim nations expressed cautious hopes Saturday that an end to the monthlong conflict could be nearing.