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Double standards: Israel Rejects 'Biased' Resolution

22 September 2002

Israel has dismissed a United Nations resolution calling for it to end its military operations around Ramallah, where it is besieging Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

The resolution, passed by the UN Security Council early on Tuesday, also called for Israeli forces to withdraw from all other Palestinian towns.

Israel, they argue, is allowed to flout successive UN resolutions while other nations like Iraq are being held to account for their non-compliance. It came as a new military incursion into Gaza City left nine Palestinians dead.

But Israeli officials described the resolution as "unbalanced", and appears set to ignore the withdrawal calls.

Foreign ministry spokesman Mark Sofer said what was needed first was an end to terror.

And political sources quoted by Israeli state radio said that military operations, including the Ramallah siege, would continue and "gradually intensify" in the Gaza Strip specifically.

The chorus of international criticism directed at Israel has continued to grow louder.

Pope John Paul's spokesman, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, said the pope was worried by the "grave situation", and urged an end to the Ramallah siege.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon should "suspend such actions that compromise the already faint hopes of peace in the region", said Mr Navarro-Valls.

And President Jacques Chirac of France said he was "dismayed" at the way the crisis was developing.

"I believe these methods will achieve nothing," he said.

Israel's main ally, the US, failed to follow its usual policy of vetoing or voting against Security Council resolutions criticising Israel, choosing instead to abstain.

The BBC's Jim Fish in Jerusalem says Palestinians take heart from what they see as a shift in the American position, following its rare criticism on Monday of the Ramallah siege.

The UN resolution has been welcomed by the Palestinian leadership as a "step in the right direction". A spokesman said the US abstention was a "clear criticism of Israel".

However, senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said resolutions alone were not enough.

"We need to see such resolutions implemented," he said. v The resolution, brokered by European states, calls for:

- Israel to "immediately cease measures in and around Ramallah, including the destruction of Palestinian civilian and security infrastructure"

- For the "expeditious withdrawal of Israeli occupying forces" from Palestinian cities toward positions held prior to September 2000

- For "the complete cessation of all acts of violence, including all acts of terror, provocation, incitement and destruction".

The BBC's Greg Barrow says the 14-hour debate, which covered four different draft resolutions, reflected the disunity among members.

Deputy US Ambassador James Cunningham said his country had abstained because the resolution failed also to explicitly condemn Palestinian suicide bombings.

'Double standards'

Our correspondent says that Arab states have raised what they regard as a double standards in the Security Council's dealings.

Israel, they argue, is allowed to flout successive UN resolutions while other nations like Iraq are being held to account for their non-compliance.

Israel justified its incursion into Gaza as a response to recent attacks on Jewish settlements.

Bulldozers backed by tanks advanced into a number of areas of Gaza at midnight, meeting heavy resistance, the army said.

"Explosive devices were targeted at the soldiers. Army forces returned fire and hit a number of armed men," the army said, adding that it had suffered no casualties of its own.

The Israelis say they destroyed 13 workshops used for making weapons.

Gaza hospital staff said nine Palestinians were killed and 24 injured.

At least two of the dead were identified as members of militant groups - Yassin Nasser, 53, of Hamas and 20-year-old Jaber al-Kharazi of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.

Protesters against the siege of Mr Arafat's compound demonstrated in Ramallah on Monday night.

© 2002 BBC

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