The United States has vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution that would have condemned Israel's construction of a security barrier that juts through the West Bank. The veto came after a day-long debate.
The vote came late Tuesday night, after Palestinian representatives rebuffed efforts to put forward a compromise. Ten Security Council members voted in favor of the Syrian-sponsored resolution. Four others - Germany, Britain, Cameroon and Bulgaria - abstained. The United States stood alone, casting its veto.
U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte says the veto should come as no surprise. He called he resolution unbalanced, but said he regretted efforts to reach a compromise had failed.
"We would have been open to perhaps some further discussion; but our Syrian colleagues were very insistent on bringing the resolution in its present form to a vote," says Mr. Negroponte. "Under the circumstances, we had not choice but to veto."
The vote followed six hours of sometimes-heated debate. A procession of ambassadors criticized the Israeli security fence as a "separation wall." Some called it one of the chief obstacles to re-starting the international "road map" peace plan for the Middle East
Israeli Ambassador Dan Gillerman angrily lashed out at the Palestinian representative. "Perhaps the Palestinian observer should stop for once looking for someone else to blame," he said. "Stop for once this charade that the United Nations where high-minded rhetoric is matched with resolutions designed to malign and distort when all the while the Palestinian side refuses to do the one thing it is required to do: fight terrorism."
Palestinian Ambassador Nasser al-Kidwa replied he was disgusted with the Israeli ambassador's outburst. But, he saved his harshest criticism for the United States. "Continuous American vetoes threaten and undermine the American credibility in the Middle East," he said. "It affirms the conviction that it is completely biased in favor of Israel."
Mr. Al-Kidwa noted that this was the 26th American veto of a Palestinian resolution at the Security Council. The Palestinians are now likely to move the measure to the 191-member General Assembly, where it cannot be vetoed.
The General Assembly approved another anti-Israeli resolution last month, by a vote of 133-to-4, with only the Marshall Islands and Micronesia joining the United States and Israel in opposition. General Assembly votes are mostly symbolic.