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US Vetoes UN Resolution Condemning  Hamas Founder's Killing - 2004-03-26

The United States has used its veto power to block a Security Council resolution presented by Arab states Thursday condemning Israel's killing Monday of Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in the Gaza Strip.

U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte told the Security Council that the United States is "deeply troubled" by the killing of Ahmed Yassin, saying it has escalated tensions in the region and could set back peace building efforts.

But before the vote, Mr. Negroponte told the council that the United States could not approve the measure, which it views as one-sided for failing to mention Hamas suicide attacks that have killed hundreds of Israelis.

"This resolution condemns the killing of Sheikh Yassin, the leader of Hamas, a terrorist organization dedicated to the destruction of Israel," he said. "Last week, Hamas proudly proclaimed its responsibility for a suicide bombing in the Israeli port of Ashdod that killed ten Israelis and injured ten more. This resolution does not condemn that attack, nor does it condemn those responsible."

The United States is the only nation on the Security Council that has not condemned the extra-judicial killing of Sheikh Yassin. But several European council members, including Britain, Germany and Romania, abstained from the vote because they, too, described the text as unbalanced. France, Russia and Spain joined other council members that voted for the resolution.

The diplomats could not agree on last minute modifications to the text, which included a condemnation of terrorist "atrocities" against Israelis. But Abdallah Baali, the U.N. ambassador from Algeria, which submitted the resolution on behalf of Arab states, said the text was balanced because it condemned "all terrorist attacks against any civilians."

Mr. Baali criticized the council's failure to reach a consensus. "By not condemning the extra-judicial killing of Sheikh Yassin, the Security Council is not sending the right message to the world that has unanimously condemned this crime," he said. "It is not sending the right message to those who sincerely believe that the Security Council is the custodian of international law, but it is certainly sending the wrong message to Israel."

After the vote, Israel's U.N. Ambassador and the Palestinian U.N. representative traded insults in the council chamber.

The Palestinian representative Nasser al-Kidwa lashed out at the United States for repeatedly blocking resolutions against Israel. He called on the United States to take a more neutral role in the Middle East crisis and blamed the Security Council for failing to take action against the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.

Israeli Ambassador Dan Gillerman said, if it had passed, the resolution would have "made a mockery" of the Security Council. He defended Israel's action against terrorists, described the Hamas leader as a godfather of terrorism and said there is no difference between Hamas and al-Qaida.

The Security Council session came one day after the U.N. Human Rights Commission adopted a resolution condemning the assassination of Sheikh Yassin.