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Palestinians pushing for U.N. resolution

UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- The Palestinian representative to the United Nations is demanding a vote on a resolution that was held up last week to allow U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell maneuvering room in his mission to the Middle East, which has now ended.

The resolution demands an end to the Israeli confinement of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in his battered Ramallah headquarters and the surrounding of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

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The U.S. has tried unsuccessfully to secure a cease-fire commitment from Arafat and the surrender of men in his besieged compound. Israel says they are behind the assassination last October of Israeli Tourism Minister Rechavam Ze'evi. Israel also wants Arafat to hand over Fouad Shobaki, a top Palestinian official the Israelis believe is responsible for the attempted smuggling of weapons on the ship Karine-A earlier this year.

In addition, new language has been added that asks the U.N. secretary-general to investigate what happened in the Jenin refugee camp, where Palestinians claim some 500 people were killed in a "massacre" while Israelis say only 45 Palestinian fighters died.

Nasser Al-Kidwa, Palestinian permanent observer, requested a formal meeting of the Security Council, which is expected Thursday.

"It's been a week (and) we've seen more deterioration on the ground," Al-Kidwa told reporters.

He also blasted U.N. member countries for "tolerating" the conditions set down by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon for the end of the standoffs, including deportation or trial for some 20 Palestinians it says are terrorists. Those 20 are in the Church of Nativity, Israelis say.

The Palestinian representatives say it is the United Nations' duty to act, but U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan believes Arafat needs room to maneuver as the leader of the Palestinian people, spokesman Fred Eckhard said.

Annan will brief the Security Council Thursday morning on his concept of an international force to be inserted between the Israelis and the Palestinians. In their resolution, the Palestinians call for an international presence.

The United States has previously said it could agree to U.S. monitors, but only after a peace agreement is reached. Israel also refuses to accept third-party outsiders unless there is a comprehensive peace accord.




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