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U.S. vetoes Arafat vote in U.N.

Arafat is back in the spotlight after Israel said it wanted to
Arafat is back in the spotlight after Israel said it wanted to "remove" him.

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The U.S. vetoed a U.N. resolution that would have demanded Israel halt threats to expel Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat. CNN's Richard Roth reports (September 17)
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UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- 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 the resolution on Tuesday and three members abstained -- Britain, Bulgaria and Germany. The U.S. veto killed the resolution.

In the Middle East, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said: "This is a sad day for the United Nations. I hope the U.S. veto will not be interpreted by Israel as a license to kill Yasser Arafat."

The resolution, which was proposed by Sudan and Syria, demanded that Israel back down from its threat to "remove" Arafat.

The Israeli Security Cabinet decided in principle last week to remove Arafat, calling him an obstacle to peace, but it provided no specifics about possible action.

International criticism escalated Sunday following Israeli Vice Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's remark that killing Arafat was an option. Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom backtracked Monday, saying that such was not official policy.

The Arab League -- which proposed the U.N. resolution through Security Council member Syria -- called Israel's action the equivalent of a declaration of war on Middle East peace.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's government blames Arafat for not stopping terrorist attacks that have killed dozens of Israelis in recent weeks. Arafat remains confined to his compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah, surrounded by supporters.

Nasser al-Kidwa, the Palestinian observer to the United Nations, warned that "serious consequences may follow the use of this veto, and the United states will bear the consequences for that," The Associated Press reported.

After the vote, U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte reiterated the American position that the resolution lacked balance.

"As we said yesterday, we will not support any resolution that evades the explicit threat to Middle East peace process posed by Hamas and other such terrorist groups," Negroponte said.

Negroponte said U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell has made it clear he does not support the "elimination of Mr. Arafat or his forced exile."

"While Mr. Arafat is part of the problem, we believe this problem is best solved through diplomatic isolation and we have made this view clear," he said.

The rejected resolution would have demanded "that Israel, the occupying power, desist from any act of deportation and cease any threat to the safety of the elected president of the Palestinian Authority."

It would have called for the cessation of "all acts of terrorism, provocation, incitement and destruction."

It also would have condemned both Israel's attacks on militant leaders and Palestinian suicide bombings, "all of which caused enormous suffering and many innocent victims."

"The fact that the U.S. delegation used its veto is something extremely regrettable," said Syria's U.N. ambassador, Fayssal Mekdad.

"If Israel wants to live in peace in the region, and it's clear it doesn't want to live in peace in the region, it wants to live with its expansion, with its settlements, with its occupation, something that not only Arabs and Palestinians would not accept, but everybody in the world will not accept," Mekdad said.

Israeli Ambassador Dan Gillerman commended the resolution's rejection.

"This was a very lopsided resolution, very biased resolution, and I therefore wish to commend those countries that did not support it," he said. "This was a resolution which in a very macabre way criticized the victims of terror rather than the perpetrators of terror."

Terrorism against Israelis by Palestinians and Israeli military attacks on Palestinian militants continue despite international pressure on both sides to end the violence and proceed with the Mideast peace plan.

The road map -- backed by the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia -- calls for an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state by 2005.

The road map has suffered a series of blows during an upswing in violence. Two Hamas terrorist bombings September 9 killed 15 Israelis, followed a day later by an Israeli airstrike that wounded Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar. The attack also killed Zahar's son and a bodyguard and wounded at least 20 others.

Palestinian security sources told CNN high-level discussions were under way between Palestinian militant factions and the Palestinian Authority for a renewal of a truce against Israeli targets.

Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a military offshoot of Arafat's Fatah movement, declared a temporary cease-fire in June, but it fell apart last month. All three are considered terrorist organizations by the the United States and Israel and European Union foreign ministers recently voted to consider Hamas a terror group.

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