U.S. vetoes U.N. resolution denouncing Israeli security barrier
From Richard Roth
UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- The United States late Tuesday vetoed an Arab-backed United Nations resolution denouncing Israel's building of a security barrier on Palestinian territory in the West Bank.
It was the second U.S. veto of a Middle East motion in the past several weeks.
"As we explained in our vote, we voted against it because we felt it was very unbalanced and it didn't condemn the terrorist acts that have occurred recently and it didn't make any mention of the terrorist issue, the terrorist infrastructure, the attacks by Hamas, the Islamic Jihad and the Al-Aqsa [Martyrs] Brigade," said U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte. "So, it was not an acceptable resolution from our point of view."
The United States considers all three Palestinian militant groups to be terrorist organizations.
Despite all Security Council members stating their opposition to the security barrier, there were four abstentions to Tuesday's vote -- the United Kingdom, Germany, Bulgaria and Cameroon -- in addition to the U.S. veto.
Nassr Al Kidwa, the Palestinian U.N. envoy, quickly condemned America's veto, which killed the resolution.
"Continuous American vetoes threaten and undermine the American credibility as peacemaker in the Middle East," Al Kidwa said. "It affirms the conviction that it is completely biased in favor of Israel. And not only biased, but it is completely supportive of Israeli policies, including illegal policies."
Israel's diplomat to the United Nations saw the vote differently.
"Perhaps the Palestinian observer should stop for once looking for someone else to blame, stop for once this charade -- that the United Nations where high minded rhetoric is matched with resolutions designed to malign and distort -- when all the while the Palestinian side refuses to do the one thing it is required to do -- fight terrorism," said Dan Gillerman, Israel's U.N. ambassador.
In Ramallah on Wednesday, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat tried to play the U.S. veto against Washington.
"The American veto against the draft resolution calling for the stopping of building walls and settlements is an actual veto against President Bush's vision of two states and against the road map," Erakat said.
"Israeli policies of settlement, building walls, incursions and deportations deserve the condemnation of the U.S., not its encouragement."
Erakat was referring to the "road map" for peace in the Middle East, a plan put forth by the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations.
The Israeli government began building the barrier last year. In some spots, it is an electronic fence topped with razor wire and in other spots a concrete wall.
Israel has already constructed 93 miles (150 kilometers) of the barrier in the north. When finished the barrier will stretch 217 miles (350 kilometers) at an estimated cost of $200 million.
Israel has said the barrier -- which is a few kilometers inside the West Bank in most cases but follows the contours of the border with Israel -- is necessary to stop Palestinian terrorists from entering Israel.
The Palestinians call the barrier a land grab, noting construction around some Jewish settlements does not follow the so-called Green Line, the frontier between Israel and the West Bank before the 1967 Mideast war.
Earlier this month, U.S. Assistant Secretary for Near East Affairs William Burns called on the Israelis to stop settlement activity and the construction of the barrier, insisting it "undermines Israeli and Palestinian interests."
Last month, the United States vetoed a U.N. resolution that would have demanded Israel halt threats to expel Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat.
Eleven of the 15 Security Council members voted for that resolution, and three members -- Britain, Bulgaria and Germany -- abstained.