- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 27, 2001

NEW YORK Facing a likely U.S. veto, the Palestinians yesterday reportedly dropped their call for U.S. observers to help quell the deadly Middle East violence and agreed on a compromise that asks the Security Council to set up a "mechanism" to protect civilians.

"It is acceptable to everybody, and we are waiting for the message from Washington," Bangladesh's U.N. Ambassador Anwarul Chowdhury, current head of the Non-Aligned Movement members of the council, told the Associated Press.

Acting U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham refused to comment on the U.S. position when he arrived for the meeting last night, AP reported.

Earlier he said the United States "wanted to support something that would be useful, that had support of the council."

Seven NAM countries had backed a draft resolution on behalf of the Palestinians calling for "immediate and substantive steps … to set up an appropriate mechanism to protect Palestinian civilians, including through the establishment of a U.N. observer force."

The resolution, sponsored by Security Council members Bangladesh, Colombia, Jamaica, Mali, Mauritius, Singapore and Tunisia, also called on Israel to cease settlement activities, end the blockade of Palestinian territories, transfer to the Palestinian Authority withheld tax revenue, and abide by the Geneva Conventions on occupied lands.

The council's four European members had drafted their own, milder version, meant to be more palatable to Israel and the United States. That draft, instead, called for "a mechanism to protect civilians" that has the agreement of both parties.

The European resolution endorsed by Britain, France, Ireland and Norway had sought a cessation of "violence and provocation" and expressed grave concern at the continuing violence and recent settlement activity. It also referred to Israel as "the occupying power."

In the compromise version, the two sides agreed to a resolution that would call for a new "mechanism" to protect Palestinian civilians, AP reported.

In the six months of fighting between the Palestinians and the Israelis, nearly 450 people have been killed most of them Palestinians.

Mr. Chowdhury said the resolution would ask U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to consult the Israelis and Palestinians on steps to implement the resolution and report to the council within a month, AP reported.

The council had expected to have a resolution, clarifying its own position and the role of the secretary-general, to present to a meeting of Arab leaders opening this morning in Jordan.

American diplomats said repeatedly they would resist any resolution that did not have Israel's full support.

Israel has said repeatedly that it would not consider international soldiers, at least not until there is a peace treaty with the Palestinians.

Meanwhile, in Amman, Arab leaders are expected to discuss renewing a regional boycott of Israel, as well as various proposals to assist the nearly bankrupt Palestinian Authority.

Arab leaders are expected to endorse Baghdad's offer to divert nearly $1 billion of its oil proceeds to assist the Palestinian people.

Security Council nations would have to agree to allow Iraq to send $630 million for food and medicine, and another $270 million for families that have lost sons and fathers in the clashes.

"All the Security Council members have approved this Iraqi plan with the exception of the United States and Britain," Iraq's Commerce Minister Mohammed Mehdi Saleh said last week in Baghdad.

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