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US Thwarts UN Statement Condemning Israel

US Thwarts UN Security Council Statement Condemning Israel

UN Human Rights Body Blames Israel for Assassinating Yasin

The United States on Tuesday thwarted the UN Security Council’s efforts to issue a statement condemning Israel’s extra-judicial execution of Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmad Yasin early Monday.

Security Council members were deadlocked after more than three hours of public council debate late on Tuesday, with the United States insisting it would not criticize the assassination without mentioning the human bombings Hamas has carried out against Israelis.

A statement, which carried less weight than a resolution, would have needed unanimous endorsement.

The Palestinian government on Monday called for a special session of the UN Security Council to be convened after Israel’s assassination of Sheikh Yasin.

During a meeting chaired by President Yasir Arafat and attended by Prime Minister Ahmad Qurei late Monday, the government decided to call for “a special meeting of the Security Council to scrutinize this vile crime and provide protection for our people,” according to a statement released by the official news agency WAFA.

Delegations met Monday and Tuesday to discuss a proposed text circulated by Algeria, the only Arab nation on the Council, that would have the president of the Security Council condemn Israel’s extra-judicial killing.

The Palestinians have drafted the draft resolution, a spokesman from the Palestinian observer mission to the United Nations said.

Algeria withdrew the draft statement after the United States insisted on language in the document that also would have condemned recent “terrorist” activities by Hamas, US Ambassador John Negroponte said.

“The essential point here was that the proponents of this statement did not want to refer to terrorism conducted by Hamas and that was the fundamental objection we had,” Negroponte said.

The Palestinians then called for an open meeting of the Security Council to discuss Sheikh Yasin’s killing.

Palestinian UN Observer Blames US

Nasser al-Kidwa, the Palestinian UN observer, told reporters, “We cannot accept any mentioning of any Palestinian group by name.”

Algeria, the Arab member of the council, was conducting negotiations on behalf of the Palestinians and Islamic nations.

“Our goal is to have action taken by the Security Council now in the right way,” al-Kidwa told reporters, adding that he was not aiming for a veto from the United States.

Al-Kidwa indicated that “a big line has been crossed” when Israel extra-judicially killed Yasin.

“It was an insane crime that has very dangerous indications and probably will have very dangerous consequences,” he added.

He said the United Nations should view Israel as an illegal occupier of Palestinian land, not an innocent victim of terrorism. After the meeting, he suggested that the United States was partially to blame.

“How do the Israelis continue with what they are saying and what they are doing unless there is this unfortunate automatic protection by the superpower of the world?” he said.

“It doesn’t take a genius to see that the United States at least as a superpower is responsible for many things that happen.”

However, John Negroponte said the killing “escalated tensions in Gaza and the greater Middle East, and sets back our effort to resume progress toward peace.”

But he did not condemn Israel’s action.

If a resolution gets the minimum nine votes and a US veto, Arab nations could take the issue to the 191-member General Assembly where they are bound to get approval as they have done in the past. Assembly resolutions are not binding as some council measures are.

Pakistani Ambassador Munir Akram told the council that the Middle East was on the brink of another great crisis with the Israeli rocket attacks in Gaza threatening to “undo in one strike the achievements of years of diplomacy.”

European nations condemned extra-judicial killings as well as actions by Hamas.

“This practice by the Israeli armed forces must stop,” said Jean-Marc de la Sabliere, France’s UN ambassador. He said that terrorist attacks were “morally reprehensible” and “unjustified” for any reason.

Israel’s UN ambassador, Dan Gillerman, called Yassin a “godfather of terrorism” and accused the United Nations of singling out his country instead of the 425 attacks that have killed 377 Israelis in three and half years.

“To cast him as a spiritual leader is to attempt to characterize Osama bin Laden as a Mother Teresa,” he said.

Speakers at Tuesday’s open Security Council meeting repeatedly urged the Israelis and Palestinians to refrain from further violence and adhere to the “roadmap” peace plan, which calls for a separate Palestinian state living alongside Israel.

But they acknowledged that Yasin’s killing made that goal much more difficult.

“The roadmap would have no future if the road is full of corpses,” Benin’s UN Ambassador Joel Adechi said.

Earlier, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Yuri Fedotov said Russia would support a statement that “expresses a sharply negative attitude to this extra-judicial decision to kill the Hamas spiritual leader and voices its concern over the effect of these actions on the peace process in the Middle East,” the Interfax news agency reported Tuesday.

Fedotov said the slaying underscored “the need to take additional steps to avert a new escalation of tension in the Middle East and to continue moving toward a fair and lasting peace in the region.”

He urged the Israelis and the Palestinians to meet their obligations under the US-backed “roadmap” peace plan, which is supported by Russia, the European Union and the United Nations.

Bush: Israel Should Take into Account Consequences of Its Actions

Separately in Washington US President George W. Bush said Israel has the right to defend itself but should take into account the consequences of its actions.

Bush was responding to a question about Israel’s assassination of Hamas founder Sheikh Yasin.

Bush said the Middle East is a “troubled region” and “the attacks were troubling.” “There needs to be focused, concerted efforts by all parties to fight terror,” he added.

Bush reiterated his support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

This administration is committed to finding a two-state solution, a two-state solution for the good of Israel, a two-state solution for the good of the Palestinian people, he said.

Bush also said if circumstances allow he would send a team to the Middle East next week to discuss the moribund peace process.

“To this end, if the circumstances on the ground allow, I’ll be sending a team back to the Middle East next week to see if we can't keep the process alive, the process toward peace,” Bush said.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Colin Powell expressed concern about the flare-up in violence between Israel and the Palestinians.

“We are disturbed by the developments,” Powell said. “We hope all parties will recognize the consequences of their actions.”

Hamas accused the United States of collusion with Israel in assassinating its leader.

“The Zionists didn’t carry out their operation without getting the consent of the terrorist American administration, and it must take responsibility for this crime,” said a Hamas statement reported by The Associated Press Monday.

UN Human Rights Body Holds Israel Accountable

In Geneva, the UN human rights body decided Tuesday to hold Israel accountable for its assassination of Sheikh Yasin.

The 53-nation UN Human Rights Commission approved a resolution from the Organization of the Islamic Conference to hold a special debate Tuesday on the assassination.

Developing countries, which make up most of the watchdog’s membership, mustered 34 votes in favor of the resolution.

The United States, Australia and Eritrea voted against it. Fourteen countries, most from Europe, abstained.

Israeli Ambassador Yaakov Levy condemned the commission's move.

“It will be the first time in the history of the United Nations that a session is dedicated to lauding, supporting, glorifying a major leader of a terrorist organization. A new low, the worst ever,” he told the commission.

The Acting United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Bertrand Ramcharan expressed deep concern over Israel's continued use of assassination in the occupied Palestinian territory, following the killing of Sheikh Yasin.

“There is no doubt that Israel has a right to defend itself,” Ramcharan said.

“However, this must be done within the rule of law. Using targeted killings raises serious questions of legality and proportionality, and is likely to make more difficult efforts to move towards peace, as well as risking further undermining respect for human rights of Palestinians and Israelis.”

Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) extra-judicially assassinated the founder and spiritual leader of Hamas Sheikh Ahmad Yasin while leaving a mosque after he performed his predawn prayers in Gaza early Monday.

“Pandora’s box has been opened. We are counting down” to the next Palestinian attack “and the question is how many Israelis will be killed,” said Yossi Beilin the former Israeli justice minister and co-author of the unofficial Geneva Initiative.

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