Sun, Jul 11, 2004 - Page 7 News List

Palestinians want UN to enforce ruling

DIVIDING LINE A General Assembly resolution backing the International Court's decision will be sought, but Israel wants the US to block any Security Council move

AP AND REUTERS , UNITED NATIONS AND JERUSALEM

The Palestinians will return to the UN General Assembly next week to demand the destruction of the barrier Israel is building to seal off the West Bank following their victory in the world court which called for its dismantling.

Armed with Friday's non-binding ruling from the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, the Palestinians and their Arab supporters quickly announced they will call on the General Assembly next week to pass a resolution to enforce the decision.

But Israel's UN Ambassador Dan Gillerman said the barrier will remain in place as long as suicide bombers keep attacking Israelis and Palestinian President Yasser Arafat's "terror" campaign continues.

He said it was "shocking and appalling" that the court failed to recognize that the barrier was "a temporary, non-violent security measure" that had reduced terrorist attacks against Israelis by 90 percent.

Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said yesterday that Israel has asked Washington to intervene to prevent any Security Council resolution.

"The issue will go to the Security Council because the [Palestinians] have an automatic majority in the UN General Assembly," Shalom told Israel Radio, adding that he had asked US officials to prevent any resolution being adopted.

US officials also made clear on Friday that they opposed the UN's involvement on the issue.

"We do not believe that that's the appropriate forum to resolve what is a political issue," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan, adding it should be resolved through an internationally-backed "road map" to peace.

However, Nasser Al-Kidwa, the Palestinian UN observer, and Ambassador Yahya Mahmassani, the Arab League's representative at the UN, hailed the court's 14-1 ruling that Israel must tear down the 685km-long barrier.

"This decision calls on Israel to destroy this wall and desist from further actions," Mahmassani said. "Israel is in violation of international law, of international legitimacy, and the General Assembly now will be called upon to look into this matter."

Mahmassani said Arab nations would be sending a letter tomorrow to request a meeting of the General Assembly to implement the court's decision.

The Palestinians and their supporters are also expected to circulate a resolution early next week demanding that the barrier be torn down and are hoping for quick approval, UN diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"We'll ask what the court had decided -- Israel has to destroy this wall," Mahmassani said. "It is illegitimate. It's in violation of international law."

Gillerman said Israel anticipates a debate in the General Assembly and expects the Palestinians "to obscure the fact that this is a non-binding advisory opinion, and try and turn it into something binding which has to be enforced or complied with."

At the Palestinians' request, the General Assembly asked the world court last December for its opinion on the legality of the barrier -- a complex of high concrete walls, razor-wire fences, trenches and watch towers. About one-fourth has been completed, much of it close to Israel's pre-1967 border but some dipping into the West Bank.

The General Assembly can recommend that the wall be torn down, and it can recommend sanctions. But only the Security Council can order such actions.

Mahmassani said Security Council members "should shoulder their responsibilities and see to it that the decision of the court is upheld, and that Israel implement this decision."

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