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U.N. Warns Israel to Halt Threats Against Arafat, in Symbolic Move

The General Assembly passes a resolution nearly identical to one vetoed in the Security Council by the U.S., which called it flawed.

September 20, 2003|From Times Wire Services

UNITED NATIONS — The General Assembly passed a resolution Friday demanding that Israel stop threatening to expel Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat and condemning Palestinian suicide attacks against Israelis.

The 191-member assembly passed the measure with 133 "yes" votes. Four nations -- the United States, Israel, Micronesia and the Marshall Islands -- voted against it, and 15 abstained.

Arab and nonaligned nations asked the assembly to act after the United States on Tuesday vetoed a virtually identical measure in the 15-nation Security Council. It was the 26th U.S. veto of a Middle East resolution in the council, Palestinian U.N. envoy Nasser Kidwa said.

The General Assembly resolution condemned "the suicide bombings and their recent intensification." It also reminded the Palestinian Authority that under the U.S.-backed "road map" for peace, it is obligated to "take all necessary measures to end violence and terror."

At the same time, the resolution deplored Israel's "extrajudicial killings and their recent escalation" and said those killings are violations of international law and an impediment to the peace process. Israel has been using missile strikes and other techniques to kill alleged militants who it says have been involved in attacks on its citizens.

Israel touched off an international outcry last week when, after back-to-back suicide bombings killed 15 Israelis, it branded Arafat an "obstacle to peace" and announced a decision to "remove" him. It did not say how or when it would do so, and some Israeli government ministers have said that killing him would not be out of the question.

Arafat, 74, denies inciting violence and has vowed to use his personal weapons to resist any move against him.

General Assembly resolutions -- unlike those of the powerful Security Council -- aren't legally binding. But they do carry symbolic weight. As a result, the strong support for Friday's resolution, including backing from influential European Union states, was important to the Palestinians.

Ambassador John D. Negroponte told the assembly before the vote that the U.S. opposed the resolution for its "imbalance and omission of an explicit condemnation of Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade."

The U.N. vote came as violence continued in the Middle East. Israeli troops blew up a house in the West Bank village of Rantis, north of Ramallah, that belonged to Ihab abu Isleem, a Hamas member who killed eight soldiers in a Sept. 9 bombing at a bus stop near Tel Aviv.

Soldiers also demolished a house in the West Bank town of Jenin belonging to the family of Shadi Zakariya Toubasi, who blew himself up at a cafe in the city of Haifa in March 2002, killing 15 Israelis. Israeli troops regularly demolish the homes of suicide bombers in an attempt to discourage others.

Israeli troops came under heavy fire Friday and four soldiers were wounded, one seriously, on the outskirts of Jenin. At least three Palestinians were wounded, including a 12-year-old boy and a 4-year-old girl, witnesses and hospital officials said.

In other developments, a Jewish settler was charged with weapons theft Friday. Prosecutors said he was procuring arms for Jewish militants suspected of killing at least seven Palestinians.

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