Sunday, November 12, 2006

U.S. vetoes U.N. resolution condemning Israel

U.S. vetoes U.N. resolution condemning Israel
By Irwin Arieff

The United States vetoed on Saturday a U.N. Security Council resolution urging an immediate withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza and condemning an Israeli attack there that killed 19 Palestinian civilians. Nine of the council's 15 members voted for the measure, while four abstained: Britain, Denmark, Japan and Slovakia. But the "no" vote cast by U.S. Ambassador John Bolton -- his second since he arrived at U.N. headquarters in August 2005 -- was enough to kill the resolution. The Hamas-led Palestinian government said the veto showed the United States backed Israel's action. But U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the resolution -- backed by Arab, Islamic and nonaligned nations, and formally proposed by Qatar -- served "a one-sided political agenda" and included an unsubstantiated claim Israel had violated international law. "We do not believe the resolution was designed to contribute to the cause of peace," she said in a statement. Bolton's first veto, on July 13, 2006, killed a resolution reacting to an earlier Israeli incursion in Gaza. The United States has cast 82 vetoes in the United Nations' 61 years, and nine of the last 10 council vetoes, seven of which dealt with the Israel-Palestinian conflict. The resolution defeated on Saturday would have called on the Palestinian Authority to "take immediate and sustained action to bring an end to violence, including the firing of rockets on Israeli territory." It would have urged the international community to take steps to stabilize the situation, revive the Middle East peace process and consider "the possible establishment of an international mechanism" for the protection of civilians. It also would have condemned Israeli military operations in Gaza and called on the Jewish state to withdraw all troops from Gaza and end its operations in all Palestinian lands.

Seven children and four women were among the dead in Wednesday's shelling of Beit Hanoun, for which Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has apologized, calling it an accidental "technical failure" by the Israeli military. Ghazi Hamad, the Palestinian Cabinet spokesman, said the veto was "a signal that the U.S. had given legitimacy to the massacres and a green light to Israel to ... carry out more massacres." In the West Bank town of Ramallah, Nabil Abu Rdaineh, spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said in a statement: "The U.S. veto encourages Israel to continue with its aggression against the Palestinian people." In comments later echoed by Rice, Bolton said Washington regretted the loss of life but was "disturbed at language in the resolution that is in many places biased against Israel." He said the suggestion of a mechanism to protect civilians would raise false hopes, and he was disturbed the measure made no mention of the word "terrorism" or the Palestinians' elected Hamas government, which refuses to acknowledge Israel's right to exist or renounce violence. Palestinian U.N. Observer Riyad Mansour said Arab foreign ministers meeting in Cairo on Sunday would decide on the next steps following the measure's defeat. One option was to bring the measure to a vote in the 192-nation General Assembly, where Washington does not have veto power. The U.S. veto sent the wrong message to both Israeli and Palestinian militants, Mansour told reporters. "Will that help extremist elements to take issues into their own hands on both sides? You bet!" Governments that abstained said they were unable to support the text because it was unbalanced.

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