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US Vetoes UN Resolution on Mideast Monitors

15 December 2001

United Nations: The United States on Saturday used its veto power to kill a U.N. resolution that demanded an immediate halt to Middle East violence and said the Palestinian Authority was essential to any peace process.

U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte said the Security Council resolution, sponsored by Arab states, was aimed at isolating Israel politically and did not mention recent suicide bombings against Israelis or those responsible for them.

The vote in the 15-member council was 12 to 1 with 2 abstentions, Britain and Norway. The other two Europeans on the council, France and Ireland were among the “yes” votes following two dozen speeches that spilled into the early-morning hours.

The U.S. veto was the second this year on a Palestinian-backed resolution. In March, Washington killed a tougher measure that called for an international observer force, which Israel opposes.

Saturday's resolution, sponsored by Egypt and Tunisia and amended by France, encouraged “all concerned to establish a monitoring mechanism” to help ease conditions in the West Bank and Gaza. It condemned all terrorist acts, executions without trial, excessive use of force and the destruction of property.

But Negroponte said it was fundamentally flawed because it did not even mention “recent acts of terrorism” against Israelis or those responsible for them. On Dec. 1, Palestinian suicide attacks killed 26 in Jerusalem and Haifa.

At least 776 Palestinians and 233 Israelis have been killed since Israeli-Palestinian clashes flared anew in September of last year after U.S. mediated peace efforts collapsed.

The resolution sought to bolster Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat days after Israel severed ties with him and branded him “irrelevant” in response to the spate of attacks on Israelis this month. It said the Palestinian Authority remained “the indispensable and legitimate party for peace.”

The break with Arafat on Thursday, a day after Palestinian militants ambushed a bus in the West Bank and killed 10 Israelis, further evaporating hopes for a negotiated end to the bloodshed. On Friday, the Israeli army killed eight Palestinians.

Palestinian U.N. representative Nasser al-Kidwa said cutting off Arafat threatened to plunge the region into war.

“This decision means the abandonment of the negotiation process,” al-Kidwa said, adding he feared Israel wanted to roll back on autonomy and security agreements made during the Oslo negotiation process that began in 1993.

Addressing the United States, he asked “whether this council is being used by some only when it's useful to them.”

A number of speakers admonished Israel for using excessive force against Palestinians. But Israel said it believed the conflict was not about occupation but about the Jewish state's right to exist.

Israeli delegate Aaron Jacob said there was an “ever- diminishing window of opportunity” to salvage peace negotiations if Palestinians entered direct bilateral talks with Israel and crushed militant groups like Hamas.

“The terrorism that has afflicted Israeli civilians is part and parcel of the fundamentalist terrorism that is now the focus of a comprehensive international campaign aimed at its eradication,” Jacob said.

Britain said it abstained because the text did not reflect the realities on ground, did not specify a next step for a resumption of meaningful negotiations nor define responsibility which both sides must accept to end violence.

“We urge Israel and the Palestinian Authority to pull back from the brink and work together to end violence,” British Ambassador Sir Jeremy Greenstock said. “It serves no one's interest to undermine President Arafat or to weaken the Palestinian Authority.”

2001 Reuters Limited.

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