UN surges to Arafat's defence
General assembly's condemnation of Israel's threat to eject Palestinian leader leaves US exposed
Duncan Campbell in Los Angeles
Saturday September 20, 2003
The UN demanded that Israel drop its threat to remove the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, by an overwhelmingly majority yesterday, thus isolating Israel and the US.
The general assembly voted 133-4 the day after President Bush blamed Mr Arafat for undermining the current round of peace negotiations, which have been stalled by renewed violence.
The resolution condemned Israel for threatening to remove Mr Arafat, but also the Palestinian suicide bombings. Despite this even-handedness, the US and Israel voted against, supported by Micronesia and the Marshall Islands.
The resolution, though non-binding, served as a reminder of the isolated US position on the Middle East.
Earlier this week, it vetoed a similar resolution in the security council, saying that while it did not support removal of Mr Arafat it would not back wording that did not also condemn terror groups by name.
Last night it offered the same reason.
Its ambassador, John Negro ponte, said the motion was unbalanced and omitted specific mention of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade in its condemnation of suicide bombing.
Israel said earlier this month that it wanted to remove Mr Arafat from the Middle East equation, one cabinet minister going so far as to suggest that he might be killed.
The general assembly resolu tion attacks Israel's policy of "extrajudicial killings and their recent escalation", and condemns "the suicide bombings and their recent intensification". It urges the Palestinian Authority to "take all necessary measures to end violence and terror".
The authority's UN representative, Nasser al-Kidwa, said that Palestinians faced an increasingly oppressive mili tary power and called the threats to Mr Arafat "insane".
He added: "We have been very clear in our condemnation of actions committed by Palestinian groups in contravention of international law, specifically the suicide bombings that have targeted civilians in Israel."
On Thursday, Mr Bush criticised Mr Arafat for undercutting the road map to peace.