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Arafat Downplays Importance of US Veto of UN Resolution - 2003-09-17


Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat dismissed the American veto of a U.N. Security Council resolution calling on Israel to halt its threats against the Palestinian president. But many Palestinians are reacting angrily to the veto, while Israel welcomed it.

Speaking to visiting Palestinian intellectuals and artists in his Ramallah compound, Yasser Arafat said he's not bothered, adding "we are more important than any resolution."

In general, however, Palestinians were angry about the American veto and some officials said it showed that the United States had lost its position as honest broker between Israel and the Palestinians.

Last week's decision by Israel's security cabinet to "remove" Yasser Arafat as an obstacle to peace prompted the Security Council resolution, which called on Israel to halt its threats against Mr. Arafat. American U.N. Ambassador John Negroponte said the United States vetoed the resolution because it did not also condemn the actions of terrorist groups such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.

Palestinian lawmaker, Ziyad Abu Zaiyad told VOA he finds the American veto regrettable.

"We all condemn any attack against civilians and we consider them as a terrorist attack," he said. "But, the United States trying to insert to the resolution of the U.N. something against Hamas or al-Jihad, I don't think that was relevant or necessary. What was on the table is the Israeli decision. So, the United States should have dealt with the Israeli decision especially when the United States is trying to play a role in this area and claiming they want to bring peace to the region."

Several Palestinian officials have said the U.S. veto gives a green light to Israel to carry out its threats against Mr. Arafat.

Not so, says Israeli diplomat Ditza Ofir of the Foreign Ministry's U.N. Affairs office.

"America's position is well known. They've stated it very clearly," she said. " I think that the veto reflected the commitment to fight terrorism wherever it is. I also think it's the realization that the Security Council is not the place where the conflict can be solved. Whatever differences there are, there is only the channel of dialogue that can solve it."

Israeli officials welcomed the veto, calling the resolution "lopsided" because it condemned only Israel and not Palestinian terrorism.

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