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Terrorism Is Key Issue in Middle East, U.S. Says

Terrorism Is Key Issue in Middle East, U.S. Says

Vetoes U.N. resolution that does not call for action against terrorist groups

By Judy Aita
Washington File United Nations Correspondent

United Nations -- The United States vetoed a Security Council resolution on the Middle East September 16 because the draft did not include an "explicit condemnation of Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and the Al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigade as organizations responsible for acts of terrorism" or call for decisive action against them, U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte said.

The Security Council action was requested by the Arab Group of States at the United Nations in response to Israel's threat to expel Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat. During negotiations, Negroponte made very clear that the United States does not support Israel's threats against Arafat, but felt that the issue of terrorism must be dealt with more forcefully in the draft text.

Negroponte said that the United States had signaled to the media and several Arab states, especially Syria, which was handling the negotiations inside the council, that the U.S. would veto the resolution without the terrorism references. But no serious effort was made to modify the text, he said.

The draft, sponsored by Pakistan, South Africa, Sudan, and Syria, received 11 votes in favor. The United Kingdom, Bulgaria, and Germany abstained.

"While all parties have responsibilities in bringing peace to the Middle East, ending terrorism must be the highest priority," Negroponte said after the vote.

"The resolution put forward today was flawed in that it failed to include the following three elements: a robust condemnation of acts of terrorism; an explicit condemnation of Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and the Al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigade as organizations responsible for acts of terrorism; and a call for the dismantlement of infrastructure which supports these terror operations wherever located consistent with resolution 1373," the ambassador said.

"This resolution did not take a clear stand against the actions of these terrorist groups or call for decisive actions against them," Negroponte said.

"Palestinian terrorism has been an obstacle to carrying out the peace process and the road map every single step of the way and that simply has to stop if there is to be progress," the ambassador said.

The draft resolution demanded the complete cessation of all acts of violence, demanded that Israel desist from any act of deportation and cease any threat to the safety of Arafat, expressed the council's full support for the efforts of the Quartet [the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia, working together to further the Middle East peace process], and called for increased efforts to implement the road map.

Speaking with journalists after the vote, Negroponte called the resolution "lopsided" and said that "we think this resolution wasn't going to add anything constructive to the advancement of peace in the Middle East."

"There is a road map for peace in the Middle East. It contains all of these elements -- the requirement for an end to terrorist acts, the requirement for reciprocal steps to be taken by both sides. It's all in the road map. That's what we ought to focus our attention on," the ambassador said.

Negroponte pointed out that the Quartet will be meeting in New York City the week of September 23 during the opening of the General Assembly. "We think that's the way to go," he said.

"We have no choice but to try and go forward. There is a road map for peace. It ought to be followed," Negroponte said.

The ambassador also emphasized that the veto was in no way acceptance of Israel's position on Arafat.

"Secretary of State [Colin] Powell stated that the United States does not support either the elimination of Mr. Arafat or his forced exile. While Mr. Arafat is part of the problem, we believe that this problem is best solved through diplomatic isolation," Negroponte said.

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