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Richard Holbrooke Explains Why U.S. Abstained from Security Council Vote Denouncing Israeli ActionAired October 7, 2000 - 7:51 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The United Nations Security Council has just passed a resolution calling for immediate resumption of peace negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians. It was 14-0, the United States abstaining, allowing that resolution to be passed.
The U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Richard Holbrooke, is now speaking.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
RICHARD HOLBROOKE, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: ... it was necessary. But in the end, talking into account all the considerations involved, we decided we would abstain, while making clear our extreme distaste for it.
By abstaining, a decision that was reached at the highest levels of government over a very extended and intensive period, we are better able to serve our national interests and the efforts to deal with the great dangers that exist in the region of the Middle East today.
QUESTION: Was there any -- has the Security Council decided on any language as to what happened today in Lebanon at all, or is that...
HOLBROOKE: Didn't they distribute a statement to you?
QUESTION: Not het.
HOLBROOKE: There's a statement. there's a presidential press statement. I'll let Ambassador Njava (ph) speak on that, because he is the -- he's the president of the council.
QUESTION: What was it about that the resolution that the U.S. was unhappy about?
HOLBROOKE: What was what?
QUESTION: What was it about that the resolution that you were unhappy about, that the U.S. was unhappy about?
HOLBROOKE: It was one-sided. It didn't reflect the fact that Israelis have been killed and wounded, that this is not spontaneous, and many of the things going on have had a deliberateness about them. We would like to see an approach that takes into account the real origin of events, and we want the resolutions which contribute to resolution of problems, not inflame situations.
QUESTION: Doesn't abstaining, Ambassador Holbrooke, send the wrong kind of signal to the Israelis and encourage them more to keep the violence alive?
HOLBROOKE: I don't think so. I don't think at all it does. I don't understand your question. Abstaining would encourage the Israelis?
QUESTION: Encourage what's been going on in terms of violence.
HOLBROOKE: You're asking whether abstention would encourage the Israelis?
QUESTION: Yes, wouldn't endorsing a resolution of this sort be better for the whole situation on the ground? Wouldn't it...
HOLBROOKE: How could you endorse a resolution which is so clearly at variance with the totality of the facts as they're known and have been reported by newspapers and television all over the world?
QUESTION: But the 14 other members have endorsed it. Don't you...
HOLBROOKE: You'll have to ask them. I'm not going to speak for them. This is not -- this resolution doesn't reflect the situation as we see it, and the idea of endorsing that -- the idea of voting for this resolution in the form which it was finally delivered was not fair.
We were prepared to vote for the resolution if it meets the objective standards of fairness and accuracy. This resolution did not meet those standards. We're not -- this is not about encouraging Israel. Israel is a very important country dealing with a very difficult problem right now and an important friend of the United States.
But this -- we didn't vote for some behalf of other people, we voted this because the administration felt it was in the national interest of the United States. we have been playing, led by President Clinton and Secretary Albright, a very active role, as you all know, in the diplomacy of the Middle East. that is now -- that effort is now under serious pressure because of events on the ground.
And one of the most important factors in this was the belief that the United States will continue to have a role. And that had to be taken into account, as well as the consequences of each of the votes that was an option for the United States.
QUESTION: Will this vote inflame the situation on the ground?
HOLBROOKE: I don't think, Will this vote inflame the situation on the ground? I think the situation on the ground runs on its own engines and motors, not what happens at the Security Council.
But to the extent that the resolutions affect things in the region, I would hope it doesn't.
All right, any other questions? No, OK.
QUESTION: Described, Ambassador, as one of the most difficult resolutions you've had to deal with...
HOLBROOKE: Not one of the most, the most.
QUESTION: What is the most difficult thing in dealing with this?
HOLBROOKE: Lack of sleep, tremendous complexity, a lot of different variables, great passions on all sides, a passion which sometimes obscured the goals of what we were trying to do, which is the Security Council is supposed to deal with problems in an effort to resolve them in a way that contributes to conflict prevention or conflict resolution. And it's harder in this case. This was a tough one.
But I need to stress to all of you -- I've already said this to some of you -- I want to stress that the delay was necessary, because absent a delay there was no way the U.S. could not have vetoed this resolution. And the veto would have carried its own consequences, and, therefore, we worked to improve it. And it came to a point where a tough decision, the administration was able to decide to abstain.
We also sought permission from...
BLITZER: Richard Holbrooke, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, explaining why the Clinton administration, why the U.S. government abstained during a U.N. Security Council vote just now, 14-0 with the U.S. abstaining, a resolution that he, himself, Richard Holbrooke, described as so clearly one-sided the U.S. could not support it.
At the same time, the U.S. did not use its veto, as one of five permanent members of the Security Council, to go ahead and block its passage.
We will have much more on this development, all of the tensions in the Middle East, coming up on a special edition of "WORLDVIEW" that's right after this break.
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