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US Vetoes Security Council Resolution on Arafat - 2003-09-17

The United States has vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution demanding that Israel ensure Yasser Arafat's safety. The vote came after day-long efforts to find a compromise failed.

Eleven of the 15 Security Council members voted for the Arab-sponsored resolution, three others, Germany, Britain and Bulgaria, abstained. The United States was the lone dissenter.

In explaining the U.S. veto, ambassador John Negroponte called the resolution flawed. He said it had failed to include a clear condemnation of Palestinian terrorist organizations, such as Hamas.

"The reason we vetoed the resolution is that it was lopsided and it didn't take into account the elements we thought it ought to take into account," he said, "including a robust criticism of Palestinian terrorism that has been an obstacle to the carrying out of the peace process and the road map every single step of the way and that simply has to stop if there's going to be progress."

In his remarks to fellow Council members after the vote, Mr. Negroponte noted that Israel had been made aware of the international opposition to any suggestion that Yasser Arafat should be expelled or killed. But he said Washington still sees the Palestinian leader as part of the problem, and favors his diplomatic isolation.

Ambassador Fayssal Mekdad of Syria, the resolution's main sponsor, called the U.S. veto 'regrettable'. He called it a 'sad day' for the United Nations.

"We think not allowing the U.N. to play its role in maintaining peace and security in different parts of the world, including the Middle East is a big mistake," he said.

The British ambassador Emyr Jones Parry regretted that efforts to find a compromise, and thereby avoid a veto, had failed. But he attempted to cast the debate in a positive light, saying there was broad agreement among Council members about Mr. Arafat's safety.

"They are quite clear that expulsion of Arafat would be unhelpful. They are absolutely committed to the view that both parties should show restraint and that the road map remains the essential element that should be implemented in all manifestations as soon as possible," he said.

The veto was the 77th cast by the United States since the United Nations was founded. The last one was last December, also on a resolution criticizing Israel.