Saturday, November 18, 2006

UN slams Israel over Beit Hanun strike

By Shlomo Shamir, Haaretz Correspondent, and Haaretz Service

The UN General Assembly on Friday night overwhelmingly passed a resolution condemning the errant shelling of a Beit Hanun house which killed some 20 Palestinians.

Representatives of 156 countries voted in favor of the resolution, seven objected and six abstained.

Voting "no" were the United States, Israel, Australia, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru and Palau. Abstaining were Canada, Ivory Coast, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

Europe's envoys cast their votes unanimously in favor of the resolution.

Israel's ambassador to the United Nations Dan Gillerman walked out of the session in protest, saying his words were falling on deaf ears and that he was better off holding a nearby press conference.

Prior to the debate, Gillerman said the session is a "humiliation and cynical exploitation of the UN, and whoever lends a hand to this decision is lending a hand to terror."

The United States ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, warned member states against approving the proposal, saying it would undermine the organization's relevance.

"Such a decision will only strengthen the widespread doubts regarding the UN, and lead many to conclude that the global organization cannot fulfill a role in the region," said Bolton.

Bolton called the resolution "one-sided" and said its adoption would only "increase tension and serve the interests of those hostile to Israel and that do not accept Israel's right to exist.

Bolton also slammed the UN Human Rights Council, based in Geneva, which called Wednesday for an inquiry into the Beit Hanun shelling.

"Since its inception, the new Human Rights Council has focused solely on Israel while completely ignoring human rights abuses in Darfur, Burma, and North Korea," said Bolton.

The Palestinian Authority's representative to the UN, Riad Mansour, called for "Israeli war criminals" to be put on trial for the shelling.

European states lead efforts to soften the proposed condemnation. The original draft, presented by Arab states, called for an "international mechanism" to protect Gaza Strip residents.

The draft also includes a clause urging UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to dispatch a "working investigative team" to Beit Hanun to conduct an inquiry into the shelling. American media reported former United States president Jimmy Carter is set to lead the team.

The clauses were included in a Qatari-proposed Security Council resolution that was vetoed last week by the U.S.

European states succeeded in changing the proposal's language, replacing the condemnation of the shelling with an expression of sorrow over the incident. A call on Palestinians to halt Qassam rocket fire at Israeli communities along the Gaza Strip had also been added..

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