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Palestinians press on with UN drive to bar fence
( 2003-10-15 13:53) (Agencies)

Seeking to sidestep a fresh U.S. veto in the U.N. Security Council, the Palestinians have vowed to press on with their drive to try to prevent Israel from building a security fence deep into the West Bank.

Palestinian U.N. envoy Nasser al-Kidwa said Arab states would now take his draft resolution to the 191-nation U.N. General Assembly, where the United States, Israel's closest ally, has no veto and the Palestinians enjoy strong support.

Palestinian Ambassador to the U.N. Nasser al-Kidwa speaks to the Security Council in New York on October 14, 2003.  [Reuters]
While Security Council texts can carry the force of international law, assembly resolutions simply represent the will of the international community.

"We have seen tonight the second U.S. veto in less than a month that again casts a large shadow on the possibility for the United States to exercise the role of a mediator or a broker of the Middle East peace process," said al-Kidwa.

The Palestinians argue Israel's plan to build a second phase of its security wall, already 90 miles long, constitutes a land grab that aims to colonize the Palestinian territories and derail plans for the eventual establishment of a Palestinian state.

Israel insists the wall is intended solely to prevent militants from crossing into its territory to launch suicide bombings. "Many Palestinians who oppose the fence simply want to continue killing Israelis. The Israelis building the fence simply want to live," said Israeli Ambassador Dan Gillerman.

The Palestinian draft resolution, vetoed by the United States late on Tuesday, would have branded the security wall as a violation of international law that "must be ceased and reversed."

The measure, which also denounced plans to build 600 new homes in Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories, won the support of 10 of the council's 15 members while four others abstained -- Britain, Germany, Bulgaria and Cameroon.

But the "No" vote from Washington, one of the council's five permanent members with veto power, was enough to kill it.

Voting in favor of the measure were Angola, Chile, China, France, Guinea, Mexico, Pakistan, Russia, Spain and Syria.

The vote followed by less than a month a U.S. veto of an earlier Palestinian resolution demanding that Israel back away from a threat to "remove" Palestinian President Yasser Arafat.

That measure too was taken to the General Assembly after its veto in the council, and adopted there by a lopsided vote.

U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte said the resolution would have had to denounce, by name, the main groups that have taken responsibility for the suicide bombings and also condemn the recent deadly attack in Haifa, Israel, to avoid a veto -- conditions the Palestinians rejected as unacceptable.

The Security Council vote followed a six-hour public meeting at which ambassadors from dozens of nations lined up to denounce the Israeli plans to prolong the barrier.

The United States joined in the criticism of the fence plans but argued a U.N. resolution was not the way to pursue the debate.

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