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Israeli housing project criticized at U.N. assembly


King Hussein says Netanyahu's Arab policies may spur violence

March 12, 1997
Web posted at: 5:20 p.m. EST (2220 GMT)

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UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- Diplomats from various countries denounced Israel before the General Assembly on Wednesday for its "illegal" plan to build a Jewish neighborhood in Arab East Jerusalem.

Separately, King Hussein of Jordan warned of a violent response from Palestinians if the plan proceeds. "I think if it happens there is a very strong chance of violence," he said in Amman during an interview with CNN. (272K/20 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)icon

Visiting Moscow, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was "fed up" with accusations that his actions were hurting the chances of peace in the Middle East.

Resolution is non-binding

The General Assembly began a debate Wednesday on Israel's settlement policy. Nasser Al-Kidwa, the Palestinian observer to the United Nations, was among several speakers supporting a proposed U.N. resolution that calls upon Israel to freeze settlement activities.


Al-Kidwa claimed the East Jerusalem project violates international law because it infringes on the status of Jerusalem, which is supposed to be negotiated by the Israelis and Palestinians.

"There can be no peace in the Middle East without the restoration of our legal rights in Jerusalem," he said.

General Assembly resolutions are non-binding, and the Israelis routinely ignore U.N. declarations on relations with the Arabs.

Nevertheless, Arab diplomats said they thought the General Assembly session was important to demonstrate the breadth of international opposition to Netanyahu.

A similar resolution before the Security Council was vetoed last Friday by the United States, which said the United Nations is not proper forum for achieving progress in the Middle East.

Chorus of opposition to Israeli plan

Israel used the same argument on Wednesday as speakers from throughout the world joined the Palestinians before the 185-member General Assembly in denouncing Israeli settlement plans.

Israel's acting U.N. ambassador, David Peleg, accused the Palestinians of turning "to parties not involved in the peace process with the hope of imposing their positions on Israel."

icon (366K/35 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)

Indonesia's U.N. ambassador, Nugroho Wisnamurti, said the world community should act to save the peace process from the "irresponsible policies of Israel."

Japan's deputy U.N. ambassador, Masaki Konishi, said Tokyo considers Israel's decision "regrettable" and that it "runs the risk of jeopardizing" planned talks on the status of Jerusalem.

Hussein: 'air of crisis,' harsh letter

In his interview with CNN, King Hussein said there was "an air of crisis" over peace talks between the Palestinians and Israelis. Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat had been reduced to a state of "complete despair," he said.


"I feel very strongly that things are not moving in the right direction, or fast enough, and we are sliding toward the possibility of despair and extremism that might come with it and violence," he told CNN.

Senior U.S. officials said Washington understands King Hussein's frustration, which was also expressed in a harsh personal letter to Netanyahu released Tuesday.

The Jordanian monarch, who has made peace with Israel, said he was distressed over Netanyahu's "tragic actions," including the decision to build the housing project in Arab East Jerusalem.

Netanyahu: 'fed up'


"I'm getting fed up with the idea that everything we do is a violation of the agreement, and everything the Palestinians say is in compliance with the agreement," Netanyahu said at a news conference in Moscow at the end of a three-day visit.

"If the Palestinians are serious about peace, let them sit down with us," he said. "But if they think they can foment violence and increased tensions, ... we're not going to play that game. We want real peace."

Correspondents Richard Roth, Steve Hurst and Reuters contributed to this report.


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