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US vetoes UN Council's Yassin measure
Updated: 2004-03-26 08:40

The United States vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution Thursday condemning Israel's assassination of Hamas leader Ahmed Yassin.

The vote followed days of debate and comes as the United States is conducting its own hunt for terrorists in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere.

The United States had demanded that the resolution clearly condemn violence by Hamas and other militant groups. Algeria, the resolution's sponsor, had resisted identifying the groups by name.

US Ambassador to the U.N. John Negroponte (L) raises his hand at the United Nations Security Council in New York March 25, 2004 to veto a U.N. Security Council resolution introduced by Arab nations to condemn Israel for assassinating militant Palestinian leader Ahmed Yassin. [Reuters]
"This Security Council does nothing to contribute to a peaceful settlement when it condemns one party's actions and turns a blind eye to everything else occurring in the region," U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte said before the vote.

The vote was 11 countries in favor, three countries abstaining, and one country against the United States.

Yassin, the spiritual leader of Hamas, was killed in a missile strike Monday morning in the Gaza Strip. Israel has warned that all other leaders of the group could be targeted.

Hamas has claimed responsibility for dozens of bombings and shootings of Israelis during 3 1/2 years of violence. Israel says it is targeting the group's leaders to stop such attacks, but critics say killing suspects without arresting or trying them violates international law and breeds resentment among Palestinians.

"Israeli policies are not part of the battle against international terrorism; it's part of the problem of creating terrorism," said Nasser al-Kidwa, the Palestinian representative.

Negroponte said the United States, too, was "deeply troubled" by the killing of Yassin.

"Israel's action has escalated tensions in Gaza and the region, and could set back our effort to resume progress towards peace," he said.

However, he noted the resolution failed to mention recent attacks by Hamas, including a suicide bombing in Ashdod that killed 10 Israelis last week. It also limited its condemnation to violence in the Palestinian territories, omitting attacks in Israel.

"The Council should be focused on ways to advance the goal of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security," Negroponte said. "The one-sided resolution before the Council does not advance that goal."

Israeli Ambassador Dan Gillerman accused the Palestinian Authority of siding with Hamas, and said it was undermining international efforts to stop the violence and create a separate Palestinian state.

"Until the Palestinians realize that they are on the wrong side of the fight against terrorism and decide to choose the path of peace and reconciliation ... they will sadly, probably, not be a member of the United Nations for a long time to come," Gillerman said.

On Wednesday, the U.N. Human Rights Commission in Geneva voted 31-2 to condemn Israel for Yassin's death, but the body has no power to punish countries. A resolution by the Security Council would have carried more international weight.

The 11 Security Council members who voted for the measure on Thursday were: China, Russia, France, The Philippines, Angola, Chile, Pakistan, Spain, Algeria, Benin and Brazil.

Britain, Germany and Romania abstained from the vote.

The vetoed resolution condemned Yassin's death and called for a "complete cessation of extrajudicial executions."

It also condemned "all terrorist attacks against any civilians as well as all acts of violence and destruction."

However, it did not mention any militant groups by name a traditional U.S. demand.

Only five members of the Security Council the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France can veto the body's resolutions. Thursday's veto is the United States' 79th and the latest in a long string of vetoes regarding Israel.

The Soviet Union and Russia have cast the most Security Council vetoes over the years, 121. Britain has cast 32, France 18 and China, 5.

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