The United States and France were close to a breakthrough on Friday on a UN resolution seeking an end to the fighting between Israel and Lebanon as the first step toward a political settlement of the conflict.
But France's UN Ambassador, Jean-Marc de la Sabliere, told reporters after a second round of talks, "We're still working on it," indicating a deal would not be reached until the weekend.
Once they reach agreement, which could occur over the weekend, a UN Security Council vote could be held within 24 hours, possibly with foreign ministers. But the text is also being checked with officials in Israel and Lebanon.
With fighting raging, an end to hostilities still appears problematic.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said: "I think we are very close on coming up with a final draft text that could be shared among other council members. We are prepared to work through the weekend."
'No truce til soldiers released'
Israel's ambassador to the United States told Reuters in an interview his country would only agree to an end to fighting if Hizbullah guerrillas released two Israeli soldiers whose capture sparked the 24-day conflict.
The immediate goal of Israel is "The unconditional release of the two hostages, the two soldiers that were kidnapped, which would constitute the end of hostilities," Ambassador Daniel Ayalon said in Washington.
In a flurry of telephone diplomacy, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan discussed the resolution with US President George W. Bush, French President Jacques Chirac, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Denisov and Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, a UN Spokesman said.
Critics accuse the Bush administration of siding with ally Israel by not calling for an immediate end to the fighting.
The talks, based on a draft from France, center on specific demands for a truce, whether only offensive operations should be outlawed or the resolution should call for a "suspension of hostilities."
Details of draft
The United States also wants monitoring of Lebanon's border with Syria to make sure Hizbullah is not supplied with new arms, diplomats close to the talks said.
France's draft resolution calls for existing UN peacekeepers and Lebanon's army to monitor the truce, while the United States favors the Israeli army staying in southern Lebanon until the arrival of an international force, which France may lead.
Also unclear is when and by whom Hizbullah would be disarmed. The militia's chief spokesman said on Thursday Hizbullah would not approve a cessation of hostilities until Israeli troops are out of Lebanon.
A second resolution is envisaged a week or two after the first is adopted, setting down conditions for a permanent cease-fire and authorizing an international force.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Thursday predicted a deal within days.
In comments to CNN, Rice indicated a compromise by saying UN Action would be in phases, starting with a resolution calling for an immediate end to hostilities and agreement on principles to reach a lasting settlement between Israel and Lebanon.