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UN Holds Emergency Meeting on Mideast Violence - 2002-03-30


Israel's assault on the Palestinian Authority has come under sharp criticism in the United Nation's Security Council, where a resolution introduced by Norway is demanding an Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian cities.

In his opening remarks to the special session of the Council, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan said "destroying the Palestinian Authority will not bring Israel closer to peace."

At the same time he said, "terrorism will not bring the Palestinian people closer to an independent Palestinian State."

The current president of the Security Council, Norwegian Ambassador Ole Peter Kolby called the emergency session at the request of Arab delegates, who were sharply critical of the Israeli military assault on Yasser Arafat's headquarters in Ramallah.

A Norwegian resolution, which could be voted on as early as Saturday, demands that Israel withdraw from Palestinian cities. The Norwegian ambassador also condemned Palestinian attacks against Israeli civilians and called for the immediate resumption of peace talks. "The Israeli and Palestinian leaders seem today locked in a battle with no exit strategies. This is untenable. The final responsibilities to end the hostilities remain with the parties themselves," he said. "At the same time, the Security Council must assist the parties in reaching this goal building on the adoption of Security Council resolution 1397."

Many of the speakers at the emergency session condemned the rising number of Palestinian suicide bombings against Israeli civilians. Most of the speakers reserved their harshest criticism for the Israeli military assault on the Palestinian Authority and called for an Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian cities.

The Palestinian U.N. representative said Israeli Prime Minister Aerial Sharon had undertaken what he called new "insane steps," and the Palestinian official said if any harm came to Mr. Arafat it would be the "mother of all these mistakes." Israel's U.N. representative blamed Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat for the escalation of violence.

U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham blamed the latest crisis on terrorism and he urged the Palestinians to cooperate with U.S. special envoy Anthony Zinni, who is trying to arrange a ceasefire.

Mr. Cunningham also urged Israel to carefully consider the consequences of its actions and warned that the Palestinian leader should not be harmed. The U.S. ambassador said Mr. Arafat's leadership will be "central to any meaningful effort to restore calm."