UN General Assembly Condemns Excessive Force by Israel
The UN General Assembly voted by a large majority late Friday to condemn what it called Israel's excessive use of force against Palestinian civilians, but 46 countries abstained.
The Palestinian observer to the United Nations, Nasser Al-Kidwa, said the resolution would "have a very important influence" and give support to agreements reached on Tuesday at the Sharm el-Sheikh summit.
The Israeli ambassador to the UN, Yehuda Lancry, said the resolution "embodied all that is arbitrary, iniquitous and partial."
It represented "a profound setback for the peace process," he said.
The resolution was adopted by 92 votes to six, Israel, the United States and four small Pacific Ocean states voting against.
The vote revealed a sharp split within the European Union, with six EU states abstaining and nine voting in favor. Other leading Western nations, which abstained, included Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand and Norway.
The vote was taken after an eight-hour special emergency session, which began Wednesday and was adjourned for two days so UN Secretary General Kofi Annan could brief the Assembly on his 10-day trip to the Middle East.
Annan described the Sharm el-Sheikh agreements as "a vital first step back from the brink and towards a resumption of the peace process."
He acknowledged that "mutual distrust is deep" and said the wounds of three weeks of violence in which more than 120 people have died "may take a generation to heal."
But "peace remains the only strategic option for Israelis and Palestinians," he said.
Before the session resumed, Israeli troops killed nine Palestinians and wounded more than 200 in one of the worst days of violence, and Israeli Premier Ehud Barak announced a suspension of the Sharm el-Sheikh truce.
The resolution condemned "acts of violence, especially the excessive use by the Israeli forces of force against Palestinian civilians."
It expressed support for the understandings reached at the Sharm el-Sheikh summit and urged "all parties concerned to implement these understandings honestly and without delay."
It demanded "the immediate cessation of violence and use of force" and called on the parties to "reverse all measures taken in this regard since September 28."
It described Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, as "illegal and an obstacle to peace".
It called upon "Israel, the occupying power, to abide scrupulously by its legal obligations and its responsibilities under the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilians in Time of War."
The session was called at the request of Al-Kidwa, after it became clear that the UN Security Council would not hold a second meeting on the crisis.
Under rules dating to 1950, the Assembly can hold such a session if a lack of unanimity among the five permanent Security Council members prevent the body from exercising its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security.
The Assembly has held 10 special emergency sessions, most of them on the Middle East. The current session has been suspended five times since 1997.
The Assembly resolution echoed much of the language in a resolution adopted by the Council by 14 votes to none on October 7.
The US ambassador to the United Nations, Richard Holbrooke, who had abstained on the first council vote, said he would veto any new council resolution that criticized Israel.
No member state has a veto in the General Assembly, but unlike Council resolutions, decisions of the Assembly are not binding upon member states.
Holbrooke told reporters before Friday's vote that a decision of the Assembly would not have "the weight, the legitimacy or the authority" of the Council – UNITED NATIONS (AFP)
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