- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 25, 2004

NEW YORK — The United States yesterday vetoed a Security Council resolution condemning Israel’s assassination of Palestinian cleric Sheik Ahmed Yassin, saying the Arab League’s language was “unbalanced.”

The United States was alone in opposing the resolution in the 15-member Security Council.

“The United States will vote against this resolution because it is silent about the terrorist atrocities committed by Hamas, and because it does not reflect the realities of the conflict in the Middle East, and because it will not forward the goal of peace and security in the region,” U.S. Ambassador John D. Negroponte said yesterday afternoon.

The failed resolution was introduced by Algeria, the sole Arab nation on the council and was supported by 11 countries. Britain, Romania and Germany abstained from the vote, which was delayed for more than an hour while diplomats attempted final negotiations over language.

Representatives of Washington, London and Berlin warned that a lopsided resolution would make it more difficult to find peace in the region.

The draft “condemns the most recent extrajudicial execution committed by Israel, the occupying power, that killed Sheik Ahmed Yassin along with six other Palestinians.” The Algerian resolution was amended at least twice yesterday afternoon to criticize attacks against civilians.

Britain, Germany and others, in response to pressure from the United States, added a paragraph that “condemns all terrorist attacks against any civilians as well as all acts of violence and destruction.” But that language falls far short of the Bush administration’s policy that all council resolutions on the Middle East include an explicit rejection of violence by Hamas, the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade and other Palestinian groups.

The Israeli army killed Hamas founder Sheik Yassin — a wheelchair-bound cleric who was blind and half-deaf — as he left a Gaza City mosque on Monday.

That execution, by a missile launched from a helicopter, was condemned by scores of nations. Mr. Negroponte yesterday said Washington is “deeply concerned” about the killing, which he said would inflame tensions in the region.

On Tuesday evening, four dozen nations took the Security Council microphone, most of them to condemn the killing of Sheik Yassin and the Israeli occupation of West Bank and the Gaza Strip in general.

Algerian Ambassador Abdullah Baali angrily noted after the vote that because of Washington’s position, the Security Council was no longer able to weigh in on the region.

“It is doomed to fail whenever it takes up the situation in the Middle East,” said Mr. Baali, who defended the resolution as fair and necessary.

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