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Security Council endorses Powell mission
UNITED NATIONS -- The U.N. Security Council on Thursday unanimously endorsed the Mideast mission of Secretary of State Colin Powell and demanded an Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian cities "without delay."
Diplomats said the council resolution would add weight to President Bush's effort to end the Mideast crisis. Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged the international community to persuade Israel and the Palestinians to draw back from violence which is threatening the region.
Bush announced Thursday he was sending Powell to the Mideast next week. He urged Israel to halt its military incursions and start pulling its troops and tanks out of West Bank cities it entered in the past week in a search for Palestinian extremists.
The intensified U.S. mediation effort was announced while Security Council members were discussing an Arab-backed resolution demanding an immediate Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian cities, including Ramallah where Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat is surrounded by Israeli tanks.
Frustrated over Israel's disregard of a council demand on Saturday to pull back its forces, Palestinian supporters demanded a new resolution including the word immediate -- which wasn't in Saturday's call for Israel's military withdrawal.
The United States objected to the word "immediate" because it has been pressing for a cease-fire to come ahead of an Israeli troop withdrawal, a position supported by Israel.
After Bush announced his new initiative, U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte proposed new language for the Arab-backed draft resolution demanding that Israel pull out its tanks and troops "without delay" and welcoming Powell's Mideast mission. Arab and non-aligned nations agreed to those words.
The resolution calls on "both parties to move immediately to a meaningful cease-fire; calls for the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Palestinian cities, including Ramallah; and calls upon the parties to cooperate fully with (U.S.) Special Envoy (Anthony) Zinni" to work to get a cease-fire and start negotiations for a political settlement.
It also expressed "grave concern" over the recent Palestinian suicide bombings in Israel and the attack on Arafat's headquarters in Ramallah. The resolution adopted Thursday night demands the implementation of Saturday's resolution "without delay."
It welcomes Powell's mission as well as efforts by the European Union, Russia and the United Nations, "to bring about a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East."
Palestinian U.N. envoy Nasser Al-Kidwa said after the vote that the Palestinians hope Israel "will heed the voice of the international community" and withdraw its troops.
Earlier, he said it would "add the weight of the council ... to the weight of the (U.S.) presidency."
At the request of the United States and some other countries, a vote on the Syrian-sponsored draft resolution was put off Wednesday night to avoid a likely U.S. veto because it used the word "immediate."
After renewed Mideast violence erupted in September 2000, the Security Council remained sidelined because the United States, Israel's closest council ally, thwarted virtually every effort by the Palestinians to get a resolution that would condemn Israeli action.
In a surprise move on March 12, the United States sponsored a council resolution endorsing a Palestinian state for the first time, demanding an immediate cease-fire and calling for renewed efforts by both parties to resume negotiations on a political settlement. It also supported Saturday's resolution, which was sponsored by Norway.