UNITED NATIONS - Despite a U.S. veto threat, the Security Council was poised to vote Tuesday on a resolution put forward by Arab nations demanding that Israel not harm or deport Palestinian President Yasser Arafat.
The resolution drafted by Palestinian U.N. envoy Nasser al-Kidwa "demands that Israel, the occupying power, desist from any act of deportation and to cease any threat to the safety of the elected president of the Palestinian Authority."
Palestinian UN envoy Nasser al-Kidwa addresses the United Nations Security Council at UN headquarters in New York City. Despite a U.S. veto threat, the UN Security Council was poised to vote on Tuesday on a resolution put forward by Arab nations demanding that Israel not harm or deport Arafat. (AFP-Getty Images/Chris Hondros)
Washington, Israel's closest ally, is "not prepared to support the resolution in its present form" because it does not explicitly condemn terrorism by Palestinian militant groups and is "very lopsided" against Israel," said U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte.
There was "a perfectly good peace plan already on the table" and senior officials of the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations would meet later this month in New York to explore next steps on the Middle East, Negroponte told reporters.
But in Paris Tuesday, France, which also has veto power on the Security Council and opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq, signaled it would support the resolution on Arafat.
French Foreign Minister spokesman Herve Ladsous said. "The draft resolution does not pose a problem for us. It suits us."
The council decided late Monday to schedule a vote on the resolution at the request of Syria, which was acting on behalf of Arab and nonaligned nations. The vote was expected in midafternoon, diplomats said.
The vote was set after nearly eight hours of harsh debate in the 15-nation Security Council, in which more than 40 governments condemned a decision by Israel's security cabinet to get rid of Arafat through unspecified means.
Syria unveiled last-minute changes in the draft text late Monday in an attempt to broaden support.
It added, for example, a phrase expressing "grave concern" at the recent surge in violence, that attacks on both sides had "caused enormous suffering and many innocent victims."
But diplomats said the changes were unlikely to head off a U.S. veto. While more amendments were always possible, Arab envoys said they did not intend to compromise further.
Speaking at the start of the nearly eight-hour council debate, Terje Roed-Larsen, the U.N. special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, questioned the Israeli decision in principle to "remove" Arafat, whom he called the legitimate leader of the Palestinians.
Arafat's forceful removal could be dangerous as well as counter-productive to peace efforts, he warned.
But Israeli Ambassador Dan Gillerman dismissed Arafat as a liar and a "professional terrorist" and predicted his removal would swiftly lead to an end to the conflict.
Arafat "is at the helm of those who have been supporting mega-terror attacks in the style of the bombing of the twin towers, to bring the region to the brink of catastrophe," Gillerman said, prompting Palestinian envoy al-Kidwa to walk out of the chamber.
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