WASHINGTON — Latin American states voted today to express deep "regret" over the use of U.S. military force in Panama and urge an immediate end to fighting there.
The early-morning vote after a marathon emergency session of the Organization of American States also called for the withdrawal of troops used in the U.S. action, but it did not condemn the intervention outright and sought no timetable for the American troops to leave.
A resolution by Nicaragua to condemn the use of force to oust Panamanian Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega from power was not formally considered.
"We are disappointed that the OAS missed an historic opportunity to get beyond its traditional narrow concern over 'nonintervention,' " a State Department official said. "The resolution is unbalanced. It does not cite the root problem--Noriega."
The State Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, noted that the language of the resolution was to "regret" rather than condemn.
John Maisto, the U.S. deputy permanent representative to the OAS, earlier called the final resolution "a mixed bag. . . . We're a little disappointed. It certainly wasn't an extreme resolution, but it's a little detached from what is really happening in Panama."
The OAS political council voted 20 to 1 with six abstentions "to deeply regret the military intervention in Panama."
The Spanish-language version of the resolution distributed after the vote used the words "\o7 deplorar profundamente,\f7 " which translates more closely to "deeply deplore."
OAS press spokesman Miguel H. Frankenfeld said, however, that the official English version was "regret."
"That's how they sold it to the Caribbean nations," said a State Department official who asked not to be identified.
The resolution noted "the serious events (in Panama), especially the armed clashes resulting from the military intervention by the United States and the deplorable loss of lives and property."
U.S. Ambassador Luigi Einaudi cast the only negative vote on the motion engineered by Peru, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Uruguay and Argentina.
A U.S. attempt to term the invasion a "military action" failed with only three votes among the 26 delegates who attended the 17-hour debate and negotiation. Only Honduras and Costa Rica supported the United States.
Another amendment by Costa Rica and Guatemala to blame Noriega for the "chaos and anarchy" that prompted the U.S. move was also defeated by a 7-2 vote with 12 abstentions.