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Wednesday, 25 September, 2002, 04:28 GMT 05:28 UK
Bush attacks Arafat siege
Palestinian women mourn Ashraf Zwayed, one of those killed
Nine Palestinians died in Israel's Gaza raids
President Bush has repeated his criticism of the Israeli siege of the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, in his West Bank compound.

US Ambassador to the UN James Cunningham (L)
America abstained from the Security Council vote
Mr Bush described the Israeli action as unhelpful, but defended a US decision to abstain from a United Nations Security Council resolution calling on Israel to stop its military action in Ramallah.

He said the abstention should send a message to all parties that they had to stay on the path of peace.

Earlier, Israel dismissed the UN resolution as unbalanced.

Meanwhile, the Palestinians have said nine people were killed during Israeli incursions overnight into the Gaza Strip.

The Israelis say they met resistance from Palestinian fighters.

Mr Bush blamed Israel's siege for slowing down the reform process and a drive by the United States and its allies to give the Palestinians a state on land Israel holds.

He said: "As we fight terror, particularly in the Middle East, they have got to build the institutions necessary for a Palestinian state.

"It's not helpful, what happened recently."

Siege continues

Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Mark Sofer said what was needed first was an end to terror.

Political sources quoted by Israeli state radio said that military operations, including the Ramallah siege, would continue and "gradually intensify" in the Gaza Strip specifically.

I am dismayed at the way the situation in the Middle East is developing

Jacques Chirac
French President

The chorus of international criticism directed at Israel has continued to grow louder.

The Pope's spokesman, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, said the pontiff was worried by the "grave situation," and urged an end to the Ramallah siege.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon should "suspend such actions that compromise the already faint hopes of peace in the region," said Mr Navarro-Valls.

US shift?

French President Jacques Chirac said he was "dismayed" at the way the crisis was developing.

"I believe these methods will achieve nothing," he said.

We need to see such resolutions implemented

Saeb Erekat
Palestinian negotiator

The BBC's Jim Fish in Jerusalem says Palestinians take heart from what they see as a shift in the American position, following its rare criticism on Monday of the Ramallah siege.

The UN resolution has been welcomed by the Palestinian leadership as a "step in the right direction". A spokesman said the US abstention was a "clear criticism of Israel".

The resolution, brokered by European states, calls for:

  • Israel to "immediately cease measures in and around Ramallah, including the destruction of Palestinian civilian and security infrastructure"
  • The "expeditious withdrawal of Israeli occupying forces" from Palestinian cities toward positions held prior to September 2000
  • The "complete cessation of all acts of violence, including all acts of terror, provocation, incitement and destruction".

However, senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said resolutions alone were not enough.

"We need to see such resolutions implemented," he said.

A boy beside his father's ruined workshop in Gaza
Israel says destroyed Gaza workshops were making weapons

The BBC's Greg Barrow says the 14-hour debate, which covered four different draft resolutions, reflected the disunity among members.

Our correspondent says that Arab states have raised what they regard as double standards in the Security Council's dealings.

Israel, they argue, is allowed to flout successive UN resolutions while other nations like Iraq are being held to account for their non-compliance.

Israel justified its incursion into Gaza as a response to recent attacks on Jewish settlements.

Bulldozers backed by tanks advanced into a number of areas of Gaza, meeting heavy resistance, the Israeli army said.

The Israelis say they destroyed 13 workshops used for making weapons.

The BBC's Kirsty Lang
"UN regulations have little effect on the ground"
Binyamin Netanyahu, former Israeli Prime Minister
"A resolution which blames not the arsonists but the fire brigade is hardly an equitable resolution"
Israeli Foreign Secretary Shimon Peres
"The fate of the Palestinians is in their hands"

Key stories




See also:

24 Sep 02 | Middle East
23 Sep 02 | Middle East
22 Sep 02 | Middle East
21 Sep 02 | Middle East
22 Sep 02 | Middle East
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