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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 September, 2003, 09:28 GMT 10:28 UK
Arab world condemns US Arafat veto
Ambassador John Negroponte
The US was the only country to vote against the resolution
Arab diplomats have condemned Washington's decision to veto a UN Security Council draft resolution denouncing Israel's policy of "removing" Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

US Ambassador to the UN John Negroponte said the resolution was "flawed" because it did not include a "robust condemnation of acts of terrorism" by Palestinian militant groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

The US was the only one of the 15 countries on the Security Council to oppose the resolution, with three - Britain, Germany and Bulgaria - abstaining.

Yasser Arafat brushed the resolution's failure aside, saying: "We are not shaken by a resolution from one place or another.

"We are more important than any resolution," he told visitors at his Ramallah headquarters on Wednesday.

Palestinian UN representative Nasser al-Kidwa said that the veto would lead to "serious consequences" for which the US alone bore responsibility.

And Syrian Ambassador Fayssal Mekdad described the decision as "regrettable", adding that it only worsened a situation in the Middle East that is already "extraordinarily complicated".

'Licence to kill'

The draft resolution, sponsored by Syria, had demanded that Israel "desist from any act of deportation and cease any threat to the safety of the elected president of the Palestinian Authority".

Demands complete cessation of violence
Demands Israel stops threatening to deport Palestinian leader
Expresses full support for implementation of roadmap

It followed a statement by Israel's security cabinet last week denouncing Mr Arafat as an "obstacle to peace" and saying he should be removed through unspecified means.

Over the weekend Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that his government had not ruled out killing Mr Arafat.

BBC correspondent Greg Barrow at the UN said several diplomats feared that through the vote Washington may have inadvertently sent a message to the Israeli Government that its threats towards the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat will not be opposed.

Palestinian spokesman Saeb Erekat described the veto as "a black day" for the UN and said he hoped that Israel would not interpret it as a "licence to kill".

But despite the veto Mr Kidwa said that he would continue to seek action on Israel from the Security Council.

"This is the house of international law and if Israel, with all its violation of international law, is capable of commanding the automatic protection of one permanent member, that doesn't make the Israeli positions any [more] right," he said.

"We will keep fighting those violations of international law and relevant Security Council resolutions."

The recriminations follow a harsh debate at the UN during which more than 40 governments condemned the Israeli position.

Israeli ambassador to the UN Dan Gillerman on Monday denounced the Palestinian leader as a "professional terrorist", prompting the Palestinian representative to walk out of the session.

The BBC's Richard Miron
"Now Yasser Arafat is once again taking centre stage"

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