March 26, 2004
There have been angry Arab reactions to the US veto of a UN Security Council resolution condemning the killing of the spiritual leader of Hamas.
Sheikh Ahmed Yassin - a veteran Palestinian militant accused by Israel of ordering suicide bombings - died in an Israeli missile strike on Monday. The Council's failure was criticised by Palestinian and Algerian delegates as well as Russia and Indonesia.
The US opposed the draft because it did not name Hamas as a terrorist group. The document condemned "the most recent extrajudicial execution committed by Israel". It also condemned "all attacks against any civilians as well as all acts of violence and destruction". Eleven members approved the resolution - two more than the nine required to pass it - but the US envoy used the veto available only to the five permanent members of the council. Three countries - the UK, Germany and Romania - abstained.
Palestinian representative to the UN Nasser al Kidwa expressed disappointment at the failure of the resolution. "Millions will be unable to understand what happened," he said. "This indeed will not contribute to calming the situation nor not to moving towards moderation or dialogue in the region," he added.
The resolution was introduced by Algeria on behalf of Arab countries. Algeria's ambassador to the UN, Abdallah Baali, said the Security Council was "not sending the right message to the world, which has unanimously condemned this crime". Russia - another permanent member of the Council - also criticised the US decision. "We regret the failure to reach consensus at the UN Security Council in connection with a dangerous outbreak of violence in the Middle East," Interfax news agency quoted Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Yuri Fedotov as saying.
Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, said the Security Council had "failed to shoulder its responsibility in security issues". Indonesia is not a current member of the Council.
The "targeted assassination" of Sheikh Yassin drew condemnations from around the world. Israel defended its actions, accusing the sheikh of masterminding terrorist operations. US ambassador to the UN John Negroponte said the proposed resolution was "silent about the terrorist atrocities committed by Hamas", calling it "one-sided". He called for Hamas and other militant groups to be identified in the draft by name. The BBC's correspondent at the UN, Susannah Price, says the backers of the bill probably feel the majority vote in favour of the resolution gives them the high ground, despite its ultimate failure. The resolution may now be taken to the 191-member UN General Assembly, where no country has a veto.
Unlike resolutions endorsed by the Security Council, the draft would not acquire the force of international law were it passed in the General Assembly. The European Union says the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been made worse by the killing of Sheikh Yassin. In a draft statement to be issued at the EU summit in Brussels on Friday, EU leaders also warn that the bloc will not recognise any unilateral changes to the Israeli borders.
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