UN Rejects Sending Observers to Palestinian Territories
The United Nations Security Council rejected a draft resolution late Monday which would have implemented a key Palestinian demand for a UN observer force in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
"This is a sad day for the Security Council," said Palestinian representative Nasser al-Kidwa following the vote. He accused the United States of having pressured Council members to scuttle the measure.
The draft resolution, presented by the non-aligned movement, was supported in a voice vote by eight of the 15 Security Council members. Nine members are needed for a resolution to be adopted.
Bangladesh, Jamaica, Malaysia, Mali, Namibia, Tunisia, the Ukraine and China voted in favor of the measure, while the United States, France, Britain, Russia, Canada, the Netherlands and Argentina abstained.
"The draft resolution has not been adopted because the required number of votes was not achieved," said Russian ambassador Sergei Lavrov, the Council's president.
The Palestinians were demanding a UN observation force in their territories to protect the civilian population from Israeli forces. Since the start of the latest Intifada on September 28, more than 340 people have been killed, mostly Palestinians.
Before the vote, Israeli ambassador Yehuda Lancry described the measure as "a recipe for a long-term instability in the region."
"I therefore urge the members of the Council not to support it," he said.
The United States had made it clear it was opposed to the resolution. "My delegation would have cast a veto" deputy US representative before the United Nations James Cunningham said after the vote.
"Now is the time to support the renewal of negotiations and dialogue, not for action which would not in fact advance the cause of peace and which not have the consent of the parties," he added.
The vote came a day before Israelis and Palestinians resume their peace talks in Washington, the first meeting between both sides since the failed Camp David meeting with Clinton in July and since the explosion of violence in the Middle East.
"We are going to start the talks with a great determination on both sides in order to achieve a reasonable agreement between us," Lancry said of the upcoming meeting.
Several countries, including France, Britain and Russia, have advised the UN Security Council to steer clear of the talks, especially since UN Secretary General Kofi Annan continues his personal consultations with both sides.
"The moment is not the most suitable" to send an observer force, said French Ambassador Jean-David Levitte, who did not rule out the move at another time.
Palestinian representative al-Kidwa complained that the United States was openly siding with the Israelis and had applied strong pressure on its Security Council partners.
"It seems that the Security Council only becomes active when things have to do with the enemies of the United States," al-Kidwa added.
Before reporters, the Palestinian publicly urged the UN General Assembly, where the Palestinians enjoy more widespread support, to take up the observer force issue that was first proposed in early November -- UNITED NATIONS (AFP)
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