U.N. ponders safeguards for Arafat

Saturday, September 13, 2003

UNITED NATIONS -- The Palestinians on Friday urged the U.N. Security Council to demand that Israel not expel Yasser Arafat and halt any threats to his safety.

Reacting to two Palestinian suicide bombings that killed 15 Israelis this week, Israel's security Cabinet on Thursday blamed Arafat for the violence and declared that Israel will "remove" the Palestinian leader, though they did not divulge their exact plans.

The Council began consultations on a draft resolution late Friday and then adjourned until Monday, despite Palestinian pressure for a quick vote. Instead, the council scheduled an open debate on Monday on the issue after members agreed more discussions were needed before a vote.

In the interim, the council issued a press statement expressing "the view that the removal of chairman Arafat would be unhelpful and should not be implemented." The statement, read by the council president, British Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry, reflects the consensus view of the council's 15 members.

The draft demands that Israel halt any deportation proceedings and "cease any threat to the safety of the elected president of the Palestinian Authority."

Secretary-General Kofi Annan has also urged Israel not to remove Arafat, calling it "dangerous and counterproductive," said U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard.

The draft resolution also demands "the complete cessation of all acts of violence, including all acts of terror, provocation, incitement and destruction."

It calls for increased efforts by Israel and the Palestinians to implement the U.S.-backed peace plan known as the "road map," which envisions a Palestinian state by 2005.

Council diplomats noted some points in the resolution that the United States, Israel's strongest supporter, would not accept, but they welcomed what they called a more balanced tone than in previous Palestinian resolutions.

The draft reiterates the Security Council's "grave concern at the tragic and violent events" that have occurred since September 2000 throughout occupied Palestinian territory and in Israel, along with the recent deterioration of the situation. It cites "the escalation in extrajudicial executions" which Israel has been accused of carrying out as well as Palestinian suicide bombings.

Annan noted the "increasingly grim" trend of developments in recent weeks and urged both sides to live up to their responsibilities under the road map, Eckhard said.

One contentious issue in the draft is a call for the protection under the Geneva Convention of civilians during war or under occupation. Israel claims the convention does not apply to territory it seized in the 1967 Middle East war. It says the land is disputed, rather than occupied.

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