Thu, Oct 23, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Israel rejects UN resolution on its wall

AP , UNITED NATIONS

A Palestinian boy rides his bicycle in front of concrete segments blocking a road between east Jerusalem and the West Bank town of Abu Dis at the construction site of the Israel security fence yesterday.

PHOTO: REUTERS

In a decision seen as a gauge of world opinion, the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly approved a resolution demanding that Israel tear down a barrier that it says is needed to protect it from suicide bombers, but that Palestinians call a land grab.

Israeli officials said yesterday that construction of the fence would continue, while Palestinians applauded the assembly's decision.

The resolution approved late Tuesday isn't legally binding, but after more than six hours of extraordinary public negotiations, it not only won support from the EU but was submitted for a vote by the 15-nation bloc, which is one of the sponsors of the "road map" peace plan.

In return for EU support, the Palestinians and their supporters agreed to drop a second resolution that would have asked the International Court of Justice at The Hague, Netherlands, for an advisory opinion on the legality of the barrier.

But the resolution raises the possibility of going to the court sometime in the future if Israel doesn't comply with the demand to dismantle the barrier -- a prospect that angered Israel's UN Ambassador Dan Gillerman.

Threats to turn the UN's principal legal body "into a political weapon for one party to a conflict is a dangerous precedent," Gillerman warned. "It should be rejected out of hand, not legitimized by pandering in a negotiating process."

Israeli Vice-Premier Ehud Olmert yesterday said Israel would not stop building the barrier.

"The fence will continue to be built. We have to worry about Israel's security and it is clear that we will not act according to the instructions of a hostile, automatic majority ... which has always acted against Israel," Olmert told Israel Radio.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat called the UN decision a victory for peace.

"The world has just sent a powerful message that the shortest way to peace is not through settlements and walls, but rather through a meaningful peace process that will end the Israeli occupation that began in 1967," Erekat said.

The resolution requests Secretary-General Kofi Annan to submit periodic reports on Israel's compliance, with the first due within one month. Once the report is received, it says, "further actions should be considered, if necessary, within the United Nations system."

Gillerman demanded to know whether any nation "seriously thinks it legitimate for the secretary-general to focus a report on Israeli security measures but not on Palestinian violations and terrorism that necessitate those measures."

The Palestinian UN observer, Nasser Al-Kidwa, accused Gillerman of "intimidation and blackmail," stressing the political and legal importance of the resolution.

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