- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 24, 2002

From combined dispatches
NEW YORK The United States introduced a draft resolution in the U.N. Security Council yesterday calling on Israel to stop destroying Palestinian installations in Ramallah.
Washington offered the measure on the fourth day of an Israeli siege of Yasser Arafat's Ramallah headquarters during which Israeli soldiers destroyed every structure in the compound but the one occupied by the Palestinian leader.
Israeli and Palestinian officials yesterday held their first talks aimed at ending the siege but reported little progress.
Palestinians, meanwhile, engaged in a commercial strike and staged additional protests by burning tires and pelting soldiers with rocks actions rarely seen in recent months. About 10,000 rallied in the Gaza Strip, and many schoolchildren were bused in for the demonstration.
The 15-nation Security Council was meeting in emergency session at the request of Arab states alarmed by the siege, which was initiated by Israeli forces after two suicide bombings in Israel shattered a six-week lull.
The Bush administration criticized the siege for the second consecutive day.
"The president views what Israel is doing now as unhelpful to the cause of bringing about reform in Palestinian institutions," said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, with President Bush on a day trip to New Jersey.
He said senior U.S. officials had passed the message to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan also warned Israel at the start of the U.N. debate yesterday that its battering away at the Palestinian Authority was counterproductive.
"A policy based on forcing the other side to capitulate is a bankrupt policy. It is not working, and it will never work. It only encourages desperation. It weakens moderates and strengthens extremists," Mr. Annan said.
He also denounced Palestinian suicide bombings as "morally repugnant" acts that ate away at hopes for a political solution in the Middle East.
The U.S. draft was offered as a substitute for a resolution put forward by Palestinian U.N. observer Nasser Al-Kidwa, stating that the council was "gravely concerned" by the reoccupation of Mr. Arafat's compound and demanding the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Palestinian cities.
Washington's version also called for Israel to pull back from the cities.
It asked Israel "to cease measures in and around Ramallah, including the destruction of Palestinian civilian and security infrastructure, that aggravate the situation and that do not contribute to progress on comprehensive Palestinian civil and security reforms."
Unlike the Palestinian draft, it demanded that all sides cease "all acts of violence, including all acts of terror" and asked the Palestinian Authority to bring to justice those responsible for "terrorist acts."
U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte rejected the Palestinian draft, saying, "We will not support the adoption of a one-sided text that fails to recognize that this conflict has two sides."
But he stopped short of a veto threat, even though Washington had said in July that it would block any Middle East resolution that failed to condemn terrorism explicitly.
With the United States wooing Arab nations for support in a potential strike against Iraq, "Washington doesn't dare use its veto," said Ambassador Jagdish Koonjul of Mauritius.
In Ramallah, the Israeli army allowed chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat into the presidential complex to brief Mr. Arafat on talks with Israeli officials earlier yesterday.
Mr. Erekat said Israeli officials had refused to present him with a list of suspected militants who they say are holed up with Mr. Arafat, demanding instead that the Palestinian leader draw up a list of all those in the compound.
"Arafat rejected the Israeli proposal," Mr. Erekat said.


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