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Tuesday, 17 October, 2000, 22:33 GMT 23:33 UK
UN holds emergency Mid-East debate
Injured Palestinian near Gush Katif settlement
Palestinians say excessive force used against the protesters
By Mark Devenport in New York

The United Nations General Assembly will hold a special emergency session to discuss the crisis in the Middle East on Wednesday, despite objections from the United States.

Washington's ambassador at the UN, Richard Holbrooke, has described a draft assembly resolution condemning Israel as one-sided. P>

The Assembly's actions will undermine their own secretary-general... purely to use the Assembly as a forum to beat up on Israel Quote Here

Richard Holbrooke
The meeting was called after the UN Security Council rejected a Palestinian request for an emergency meeting to discuss last week's Israeli rocket attacks on Gaza and the West Bank.

The draft resolution drawn up by Arab members of the UN condemns what it describes as the excessive use of force by the Israeli occupying forces against Palestinian civilians.

A 'useless' body

Washington's UN ambassador, Richard Holbrooke, predicts that the assembly session will be one-sided, outrageous and wrong-headed.

UN ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke
Holbrooke: Strong objection to meeting
Pointing out that the ceasefire agreement reached by Israeli and Palestinian leaders at Sharm el-Sheikh remained fragile, Mr Holbrooke described the General Assembly, which includes representatives of all the UN's member states, as "frankly a useless body at this point".

Despite Washington's strenuous objections, UN officials say the assembly debate will go ahead.


Palestinian representatives indicate that the resolution they have already circulated will be amended to take the Sharm el-Sheikh agreement into account.

Words can inflame or soothe, and everyone needs a restoration of calm to create the best possible atmosphere for a resumption of peace talksQuote Here

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan
Stressing the importance of restoring calm to the Middle East, the UN secretary-general, Kofi Annan, has called on members of the international community to weigh their words carefully in the coming days.

Whilst the United States can block any move it does not like in the UN Security Council by exercising its power of veto, it cannot stop the General Assembly passing a resolution condemnatory of Israel.

General Assembly decisions carry moral weight. But they do not have quite the same kind of binding force as a resolution approved by the Security Council.

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See also:

17 Oct 00 | Middle East
Violence mars Mideast agreement
17 Oct 00 | Middle East
Press avoids raising hopes
17 Oct 00 | Middle East
The Sharm el-Sheikh agreement
17 Oct 00 | Middle East
In their words: Summit reaction
17 Oct 00 | Middle East
Analysis: A deal beset with ifs
14 Oct 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
Only pain uniting the divided
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