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U.S. proposes resolution urging Israel to end Ramallah siege

Israeli troops walk Monday in front of Arafat's compound in Ramallah.
Israeli troops walk Monday in front of Arafat's compound in Ramallah.

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UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- In a rare public rebuke of the Israeli government, the United States on Monday introduced a draft resolution to the U.N. Security Council, condemning Israel for its siege and demolition of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's compound.

The draft calls on Israel to "cease measures in and around Ramallah, including the destruction of Palestinian civilian and security infrastructure, that aggravate the situation and that do not contribute to progress on comprehensive Palestinian civil and security reforms." The draft also calls for the punishment of Palestinians who plot suicide bombings.

The draft resolution seemed to underscore the Bush administration's frustration with the Israeli government over the operation, which resulted in the demolition of all but Arafat's office.

The United States has traditionally used its veto power to block passage of any U.N. resolutions criticizing Israel. But, as one senior State Department official said, the United States would "take a look at whatever is presented" during a late-night U.N. session Monday to discuss the Mideast crisis.

Earlier Monday, most administration officials expressed exasperation at Israel over the timing of the confrontation: Israel's siege on Arafat is likely to rally Palestinians to his side at a time the administration has been working with Palestinian moderates and reformers on an effort to push Arafat into a more symbolic role with less emphasis on day-to-day management of Palestinian affairs.

more video VIDEO
CNN's Ben Wedeman says the latest siege by Israeli troops is rebuilding support among Ramallah residents for Yasser Arafat (September 23)
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CNN's Matthew Chance examines whether or not Israel's containment of Arafat has disrupted any hope for Palestinian reform (September 23)
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One senior administration official described President Bush's reaction to the siege this way: "To say he is angry about it is more than fair."

White House press secretary Ari Fleischer told reporters Israel's actions are "very unhelpful" and "contrary to peace."

"The president wants to make sure that Israeli actions do not undermine reform efforts toward peace," he said.

He added: "Notice I didn't say anything about Israelis defending themselves."

Fleischer refused to explain that statement -- but often in the past the administration has tempered calls for Israeli restraint with the statement that Bush understands Israel's right to defend itself after suicide bombings or other terrorist attacks.

Secretary of State Colin Powell called Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to voice the administration's displeasure, and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice is among other senior White House and administration officials who called top Israeli officials to lodge objections, officials said.

"We are making clear what Israel is doing is not helpful," said an administration official familiar with the calls. "We don't see the connection between these actions and a commitment to move forward on an agenda for peace."

State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher said Powell made the 35-minute phone call to "convey the president's deep concerns about the situation." In addition to his conversation with Sharon, Powell also talked by telephone with the foreign ministers of Germany, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Russia about the situation.

"We've made clear in our conversations that recent Israeli actions in Ramallah and around the Muqata, including the destruction of Palestinian civilian and security infrastructure, have aggravated the situation and they do not contribute to progress on Palestinian civil and security reform," Boucher said.

Asked whether the United States was urging Israel to withdraw from Ramallah, Boucher would only say the United States is "working fairly intensely with both sides and other international parties to try to calm the situation and try to help resolve it."

-- CNN Senior White House Correspondent John King and Producer Elise Labott contributed to this report.

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