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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 October, 2003, 07:53 GMT 08:53 UK
UN condemns West Bank 'wall'
Concrete blocks separating the West Bank village of Abu Dis from Jerusalem
The Israel Government sees no alternative to the barrier
The UN General Assembly has overwhelmingly passed a resolution demanding that Israel halt construction of a huge barrier in the West Bank.

The resolution also calls for existing stretches of fence to be removed.

It says the barrier contravenes international law, but falls short of meeting Arab-led demands that the entire matter be referred to the International Court of Justice in the Hague for a legal ruling.

But Israel's Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said construction of the barrier would continue.

He told Israel Radio: "The fence will continue being built and we will go on taking care of the security of Israel's citizens."

Palestinians view the barrier as a wall that is encroaching on more Palestinian land and making a number of Israeli settlements in the border areas permanent.
HAVE YOUR SAY
The wall will fail to do anything other than spur the Palestinians to further acts of violence.
Leigh Ross, USA

The BBC's Greg Barrow at the UN says that although the resolution sends a clear message to Israel, General Assembly resolutions are not legally binding, and carry less weight those passed in the Security Council.

The vote was passed with 144 in favour, 4 opposed and 12 members abstaining.

One month report

Meanwhile, Russian officials at the UN say they have circulated a new Security Council resolution calling on both Israel and the Palestinians to fulfil their obligations under the internationally-backed peace plan, known as the roadmap.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan now has to report back in a month's time on Israeli compliance with the demand that work on the barrier be reversed.

Guide to the route and structure of the West Bank barrier

If the situation has not changed, then Mr Annan is tasked with suggesting what further actions should be considered.

The vote came after lengthy negotiations between nations representing the European Union and the regional grouping of Arab countries.

Arab diplomats had initially called for two resolutions, one urging an end to construction of the security barrier and the second seeking a legal opinion on the barrier from the International Court of Justice.

But a number of EU nations along with other UN member states expressed concern that if the matter was taken to The Hague this could lead to charges that the court itself was being politicised.

Eventually Arab nations were persuaded to drop the demand for a legal judgement, although the possibility of further action coming once the UN Secretary General has submitted his report does not rule this out as an option for the future.

'Humiliating'

Before the vote the Israeli ambassador to the UN, Dan Gillerman, was scathing in his criticism, describing the resolution as divisive to the United Nations and the cause of peace.

While horrifying many Palestinians, the security fence has proved popular among Israelis

He called the discussions "a humiliating farce".

Israeli officials have insisted that the barrier is a simple security measure designed to block suicide bombers from entering Israel and they say it will be dismantled once a peace agreement reached.

A senior UN official urged Israel to abandon the barrier.

Sir Kieran Prendergast said the fence would affect the lives of tens of thousands of Palestinians.

Sir Kieran - the UN under secretary general for political affairs - said that the fence was a low point for the peace process after recent suicide attacks and Israeli retaliatory raids.

"We cannot continue to lurch from crisis to crisis," he said, calling for an end to what he called the "cycle of violence, revenge and escalation".




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Barbara Plett
"There's no stopping the barrier"



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