CHINA / National

Israel must 'implement obligations'
(China Daily)
Updated: 2006-07-29 06:04

China on Friday demanded that Israel co-operate with the United Nations and carry out all-round investigation into the bombing of a UN post in south Lebanon that killed four observers including one Chinese.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao also asked Israel to announce its result as soon as possible.

"China urges Israel and related sides to implement their international obligations and take practical measures to ensure the security of UN peacekeepers," he said in a statement.

Liu made the remark when commenting on a statement issued on Thursday by the United Nations Security Council on the Israeli attack on the UN observer post.

The statement expressed shock and distress at Israel's bombing, but avoided any condemnation.

All 15 council members agreed on the watered-down statement, which was the first by the Security Council since fighting between Israel and Lebanon's Hezbollah guerrillas began on July 12.

In the only reference to the wider conflict, the council expressed its "deep concern for Lebanese and Israeli civilian casualties and sufferings, the destruction of civil infrastructures and the rising number of internally displaced people."

The statement was read at a formal meeting by the current council president, France's UN Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere.

The United States, Israel's closest ally, insisted on dropping any condemnation or allusion to the possibility that Israel deliberately targeted the post in the town of Khiyam near the eastern end of the border with Israel.

China's UN Ambassador Wang Guangya, who proposed the statement, noted that during council consultations "almost all the members, with strong voice, condemned what happened, so I believe that this condemnation is there."

Despite the final statement being "watered down," he said the council "is not only doing justice to the victims and their families, but also, more important ... to tens of thousands of women and men who are working for this organization all over the world."

China's initial draft would have had the council express shock and distress at Israel's "apparently deliberate targeting" of the UN base and condemn "this co-ordinated artillery and aerial attack on a long-established and clearly marked UN post."

In that draft, China was following Secretary-General Kofi Annan's statement late Tuesday that Israel appeared to have struck the site deliberately an accusation Israel vehemently denies.

A revised draft dropped the reference to the "apparently deliberate targeting" but kept in the condemnation and an allusion to possible targeting. That was still unacceptable to the Americans as was a call for a joint Israeli-UN investigation into the incident, which Annan wanted.

In the final text, the condemnation of Israel was eliminated, as was the call for a joint investigation.

It said "the Security Council is deeply shocked and distressed by the firing by the Israeli Defence Forces on a United Nations Observer post in southern Lebanon..."

The council also expressed deep concern about the safety and security of UN personnel and stressed that Israel and "all concerned parties" must comply with international humanitarian law, which includes protecting UN personnel. It underlined "the importance of ensuring that UN personnel are not the object of attack."

The United Nations has decided to remove unarmed observers from their posts along the Israeli-Lebanese border, a spokesman said on Friday.

"These are unarmed people and this is for their protection," said Milos Struger, a spokesman for UNIFIL, the peacekeeping force whose 2,000 members have light weapons for self-defence.

Liu said on Friday China has strongly condemned the attack on UN observers.

China is also concerned about the situation in the Middle East, currently one of tension and turbulence, Liu said.

China urges all parties to the conflict to cease fire immediately, launch humanitarian assistance, and return to the track of negotiations for a political solution, so as to restore peace and security in the region as soon as possible, he said.

Liu added that China has decided to offer emergency humanitarian aid to Lebanon, without elaborating.

(China Daily 07/29/2006 page1)