- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 14, 2003

NEW YORK (AP) - The United States last night vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Israel for building a barrier that cuts into the West Bank, hours after Israels military expelled 15 Palestinian detainees from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip.

The veto came after the United States suggested an alternate draft that would have called on all parties in the Middle East struggle to dismantle terrorist groups.

The United States was the only country to reject the resolution, exercising the veto power it has as one of the five permanent members of the council. Four of the 15 members - Bulgaria, Cameroon, Germany and Britain - abstained.

John D. Negroponte, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said the resolution “was unbalanced” and “did not further the goals of peace and security in the region.”

Earlier yesterday, the new Palestinian prime minister, Ahmed Qureia, sparred in public with Yasser Arafat - a sign that the rift between the two is deepening - as Israeli troops invaded a Palestinian refugee camp on the Gaza-Egypt border, looking for arms-smuggling tunnels.

The military said the expulsion orders were the only way to ensure that the 15 detainees would not return to terror activity. The military said most are members of militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

None participated directly in attacks on Israelis or had “blood on their hands,” an army statement said, but all were accomplices to violence.

The 15 had been held in military lockups without trial, in what is called administrative detention. They cannot be tried without exposing sensitive intelligence sources, the army said. The detainees have been moved to an army jail near Gaza and have two days to appeal.

Palestinian Cabinet minister Saeb Erekat said the army order “is a very dangerous step” and should be condemned by the international community.

The military previously has said that expulsion acts as a deterrent, but Israels Supreme Court, in a ruling last year, severely limited the practice to those directly involved in violence.

On Monday, Mr. Arafat appointed a top member of his Fatah party, Hakam Balawi, to be acting interior minister. In a show of defiance, Mr. Qureia, who had supported another choice for the post, told reporters yesterday that Mr. Balawi did not have the job.

Further, Mr. Qureia said the powers and responsibilities of the Interior Ministry would be taken over by the Palestinian National Security Council for now.

Last week, Mr. Qureia lost his battle to get parliamentary approval for the Cabinet, formed by an Arafat decree. Mr. Qureia has threatened to quit once the term of his temporary government expires in about three weeks.

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