- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 24, 2004

GENEVA — A special session of the United Nations’ human rights body yesterday overwhelmingly approved a resolution condemning Israel for the assassination of Sheik Ahmed Yassin, founder of the militant Palestinian organization Hamas.

The United States and Australia were the lone dissenters on the motion, with U.S. officials complaining the resolution was one-sided because it did not criticize terrorist acts carried out by Hamas and other Palestinian groups against Israel.

Separately, Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom met with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and other top U.N. officials on a visit to New York, telling reporters afterward that the killing of Sheik Yassin was justified. He condemned plans for a similar critical resolution now being prepared for the Security Council.

“In order to give a strong message to the terrorists, what should happen is the Security Council should condemn the terrorists, the leaders of those extreme organizations,” Mr. Shalom said, comparing Sheik Yassin to al Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden.

The motion in Geneva was sponsored by Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Conference and condemned the use of targeted political assassinations by Israeli forces.

China and Russia voted in favor of the motion, as did major developing countries such as India, Brazil and South Africa. European Union members, including France, Britain and Germany, abstained.

Ambassador Richard Williamson, the head of the U.S. delegation to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, called the action a “politicization of the commission deliberations that discredits our work and diminishes the effectiveness of this body.”

But Palestinian representative Nabil Ramlawi said Israel ignored past demands to stop extra-judicial executions and continued to violate human rights “because it had the resources of a superpower behind it.”

A group of private human rights organizations, including the International Commission of Jurists, said in a statement that Israeli forces had carried out some 200 political assassinations of Palestinian officials since renewed violence in the region began in September 2000.

In New York, Algeria, the lone Arab representative on the Security Council, introduced a resolution on behalf of the Arab League condemning the Yassin killing and calling for “a complete cessation of … all acts of violence and attacks.”

The Algerian draft, which has already been rejected by the United States as “unbalanced,” contains no condemnation of Palestinian terrorism.

Mr. Shalom also called on Mr. Annan, to hold a special session on terrorism, racism and extremism. The Israeli minister indicated that the Sharon government had decided against deporting Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, but declined to rule out additional assassinations.

Betsy Pisik contributed to this report from New York.

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