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US Official Accuses UN of Harming Mideast Peace Prospects - 2003-10-21

A U.S. State Department official has accused the United Nations General Assembly of harming prospects for peace in the Middle East. He made the charge as U.N. diplomats continue to debate a new resolution on Israel.

Last week, the United States vetoed a resolution in the Security Council condemning Israel's construction of a security barrier that crosses into the West Bank.

Now, as the General Assembly takes up the issue, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kim Holmes has criticized the U.N. body for what he described as a failure to take an even-handed approach to the Middle East. "General Assembly debates and resolutions sometimes undermine the credibility of the institution. During its last session, over a quarter of the resolutions that the Assembly adopted by vote were on Israel. We must reduce that number. These resolutions are unfair and untrue. They harm peace prospects. They are crowding out the genuine needs of others," he said.

The Assistant Secretary of State made his remarks during a speech Tuesday on the challenges facing the United Nations at the private Council on Foreign Relations in New York.

Mr. Holmes, in his address, did not limit himself to criticizing U.N. actions on Israel. He also questioned the U.N.'s willingness to take any steps that would reform the organization or make it more accountable for its actions. "Fear of reform, not its prospect, holds the greater risk for the United Nations. Reform will not be simple. But the effort will be worth it," he said.

Mr. Holmes urged United Nations members to fulfill their responsibilities to help combat terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. He also criticized the composition of the Security Council and U.N. commissions.

He said governments that support terrorism and do not respect democratic values should not serve on the council or in leadership positions. The United States has recently criticized Syria's membership in the council and Libya's position as head of the Commission on Human Rights.