Palestinians demand vote on new withdrawal resolution

Thursday, April 18, 2002

UNITED NATIONS -- Accusing Israel of defying the Security Council, the Palestinians on Wednesday demanded a vote on a new resolution ordering Israeli military forces to withdraw immediately from Palestinian cities.

Frustrated at the lack of results from Secretary of State Colin Powell's Mideast peace mission and Israel's continuing military campaign, the Palestinians are again turning to the council, whose resolutions are legally binding.

The council approved three resolutions in just over three weeks, the latest on April 4, outlining a blueprint for an end to more than 18 months of Israeli-Palestinian violence, a return to negotiations and a peace deal culminating in the establishment of a Palestinian state.

It has demanded an immediate cease-fire and an Israeli troop withdrawal "without delay."

The new resolution demands immediate implementation of those resolutions and calls for "an international presence that could help provide better conditions on the ground."

It appeals for a U.N. investigation of "the tragic events" in the Jenin refugee camp. It also demands "the immediate end" to the Israeli army's siege at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, where armed Palestinians are holed up inside, and at the headquarters of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in Ramallah, which is encircled by Israeli tanks.

The Security Council scheduled consultations on the draft resolution for today, after Secretary-General Kofi Annan briefs members on his appeal for the deployment of an armed international force to Palestinian areas.

Nasser Al-Kidwa, the Palestinian U.N. observer, said the Palestinians will demand a vote by tonight.

Arab nations introduced the new resolution on April 7. The United States, Israel's closest council ally, threatened to veto it, saying it was time for action on the ground, not more words.

Arab nations decided last week to hold up a vote to give Powell's Mideast mission a chance -- and to wait for Israel's response to a joint statement issued in Madrid by Powell, Annan, and top European Union and Russian envoys calling for an immediate Israeli cease-fire and pullout from Palestinian towns.

Powell ended his Mideast peace effort on Wednesday with little to show. He called the Israeli military offensive an obstacle to starting peace talks and focused on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's promise to wind down the operation. He also admonished Arafat to do more to fight terrorism.

Al-Kidwa accused Israel of defying the council, citing reports of massive killings and human rights abuses in the Jenin refugee camp, the scene of the fiercest fighting of Israel's massive more than two-week-old offensive.

"Not only are Israeli tanks still in many Palestinian cities and villages, but we have seen more deterioration of the situation on the ground," he said. "We have seen the occupation of new towns."

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