U.S. joins Security Council vote deploring Israeli acts


UNITED NATIONS -- After weeks of negotiation, the United States joined other members of the United Nations Security Council yesterday in adopting a resolution that called the occupied West Bank "Palestinian territories" and criticized Israel for its recent deportation of four Palestinians.

The new council resolution and a statement made by Yemen's chief delegate, Abdallah Saleh al-Ashtal, in his turn as president of the council also included several features that drew an immediate, heated response from Israel.

But the United States, which had striven to avoid opening a wide divide with Israel, was able to support the final resolution because it was crafted in such terms that American diplomats could insist the language marked no fundamental change in American policy.

For many weeks, the United States had been maneuvering to dilute a resolution introduced by several of the council's nonaligned members, at the behest of the Palestine Liberation Organization, after the violence in and around the Al Aqsa mosque Oct. 8.

Washington wanted to avoid casting a veto when it came to a vote, butnot to approve a resolution whose wording differed widely from past American expressions.

Using a veto might have gravely embarrassed America's Arab allies in the Persian Gulf crisis by allowing President Saddam Hussein of Iraq to portray them as siding with Israel's friend and protector.

But at the same time, the United States was wary of approving a resolution too favorable to the Palestinian cause for fear that this might be interpreted as a negotiating ploy toward Iraq, something Washington repeatedly denied it was seeking.

"Today's agreement avoids any risk to the coalition that might have arisen if divisions had come up in the council," Britain's U.N. representative, Sir David Hannay, said.

The new resolution, the third hostile to Israel the council has adopted since the outbreak of the gulf crisis last August, includes Jerusalem, which is Israel's capital, in the " "Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967" when Israel defeated Egypt, Syria and Jordan.

That language was similar to that which was voted for by the United States in a Security Council resolution in 1988.

The council also endorsed, for the first time, the idea of an international Middle East peace conference, saying this could facilitate a settlement to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

But the endorsement comes in a separate statement by the council president with only a passing reference to it in the resolution's text.

The new resolution asks the secretary-generalto give Palestinians more protection against Israeli mistreatment by xTC monitoring conditions in the occupied territories more closely, if necessary sending more U.N. officials there, and to make reports to the council.

Explaining the Bush administration's vote, the U.S. representative, Thomas R. Pickering, expressed "deep concern about the situation in the occupied territories," roundly condemned the recent deportations and called on "all sides to exercise maximum restraint."

But he insisted that his vote "in no way indicates a change in UnitedStates policy on any issue related to the Arab-Israeli conflict."

Nevertheless, Israel's United Nations representative, Yoram Aridor, and many American Jewish organizations reacted angrily the American vote yesterday, accusing the Bush administration of singling out Israel for criticism because it wants to appease its Arab allies in the struggle against Iraq to free Kuwait.

"No time is appropriate for the convening of a so-called international peace conference, but any time is appropriate for bilateral and direct negotiations between Israel and its neighbors," Mr. Aridor said in a voice shaking with anger and bitterness.

[The Associated Press reported that PLO observer M. Nasser al-Kidwa termed the resolution "an important and substantive contribution to provide protection to the Palestinian people under Israeli occupation and contribute to resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict."]

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