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The BBC's Mark Devenport:
Reports from the UN's headquarters in New York
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The BBC's Samantha Simmonds
"The US veto could damage their relationship with the Palestinians"
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Wednesday, 28 March, 2001, 11:04 GMT 12:04 UK
US vetoes force to protect Palestinians
Palestinian protesters
No end in sight to the clashes
America has vetoed moves in the United Nations Security Council to establish an international observer force to help protect Palestinians, after six months of clashes with the Israeli army.

It is the first American veto of a Security Council resolution in four years and acting US Ambassador James Cunningham expressed "great regret" in casting his "no" vote.

The United States opposed this resolution because it is unbalanced and unworkable and hence unwise

US Ambassador James Cunningham
The vote had been put before the council by allies of the Palestinians after five days of tortuous negotiations to reach a unified position.

The American veto comes amid an upsurge in violence and a new bomb attack on the border between Israel and the West Bank.

Two teenagers and a suspected suicide bomber died in the third bomb attack in two days. Several people were injured.

'Political theatre'

Of the 15 Security Council seats, four western European representatives and Ukraine abstained, while nine council members voted for the resolution.

Observer force: How the Security Council voted
For: Bangladesh, Colombia, Jamaica, Mali, Mauritius, Singapore, Tunisia, Russia, China
Abstentions: UK, France, Ireland, Norway
Against: US
These included seven members of the non-aligned movement, supported by Russia and China.

"The United States opposed this resolution because it is unbalanced and unworkable and hence unwise," Mr Cunningham told the council.

"It is more responsive to political theatre than political reality," he said.

"We have shown flexibility time and gain to accommodate the views of all sides," said Bangladesh's ambassador, Anwarul Chowdhury, the spokesman for the seven sponsors of the failed resolution.

"The basic intention [was] that this observer force proposal will have the broadest possible support."

Palestinians have repeatedly called for the Security Council to at least send unarmed observers to the West Bank and Gaza, even if Israel refuses to allow them into the territories.

Israeli opposition

Palestinian supporters say they pushed for a vote before a summit of Arab leaders ends in the Jordanian capital, Amman, on Wednesday.

Correspondents say that although there can be no observer force without Israeli consent, Arab countries want the council to acknowledge that help is needed.

But Israel claims that increased UN involvement would only make the crisis in the Middle East worse.

Israel's UN Ambassador, Yehuda Lancry, made clear his country's position: "Once Yasser Arafat puts an end to the violence, that is the best protection for the Palestinians."

The US has only vetoed five resolutions since 1990, all of them dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. The last one, in 1997, blocked a resolution demanding that Israel stop the construction of a settlement in east Jerusalem.

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28 Mar 01 | Middle East
Day of violence in Mid-East
27 Mar 01 | Middle East
Assad and Arafat 'forget' past enmity
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