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Arab states ask UN assembly to block Israeli wall
( 2003-10-21 09:08) (Agencies)

Arab nations, trying to sidestep a U.S. veto in the U.N. Security Council, urged the General Assembly on Monday to adopt a resolution declaring that an Israeli barrier being built on West Bank land was illegal.

Arab envoys also asked the 191-nation assembly to approve a second measure seeking an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice on whether Israel is legally obligated to dismantle the barrier, diplomats said.

The court, a branch of the United Nations, judges disputes between countries and is based in the Netherlands.

But the sponsors put off a vote until Tuesday at the earliest. The texts were submitted just hours before the start of an emergency assembly session, while assembly rules require that resolutions be submitted a day before a planned vote.

"If not today, another day," Palestinian U.N. envoy Nasser al-Kidwa told reporters before the special session began.

The United States, Israel's closest ally, last week vetoed a Palestinian draft resolution that would have declared the construction of what Israel calls a "security fence" separating the Jewish state from Palestinian areas to be a violation of international law that "must be ceased and reversed."

U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte said the text was biased against Israel and would have to condemn suicide bombings and those groups that have taken responsibility for suicide attacks on the Jewish state to avert a veto.

For the Palestinians, taking resolutions to the General Assembly after a council veto has become a standard tactic.


The Palestinians enjoy strong support in the assembly and Washington has no veto there.

However, while Security Council measures can carry the force of international law, assembly resolutions simply express the will of the international community.

The Israeli barrier -- a fence with electronic sensors or in spots a concrete wall up to 25 feet high -- is flanked by trenches, barbed wire and a patrol road.

Israel insists its plan for the second phase of the barrier, already 90 miles long, aims solely to block militants from launching suicide bombings in the Jewish state.

But the Palestinians argue that building the barrier deep into West Bank territory would constitute a land grab aimed at derailing hopes for an eventual Palestinian state.

"The practical effect of the veto is that the construction of the wall will continue ... unless the General Assembly and the United Nations system do something about it," al-Kidwa said.

"It is either the wall or peace, for it is impossible to have both," he said.

But Israeli Ambassador Dan Gillerman called al-Kidwa's remarks "a litany of lies" and accused the Palestinians of pursuing their resolutions only to evade their obligation to end terror attacks on Israel.

By asking the assembly to declare the barrier illegal while at the same time seeking an advisory opinion on its legality, "the proponents of these resolutions have not only exposed their own malicious intentions, they have exposed this assembly to mockery and ridicule," Gillerman said.

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