UNITED NATIONS – Following up on their World Court (search) victory, Palestinians urged the United Nations to impose sanctions against Israel if it refuses to accept the court opinion that its West Bank security barrier is illegal and must be torn down.
The Palestinians' U.N. observer, Nasser Al-Kidwa (search), on Friday presented the request to the General Assembly to reinforce last week's International Court of Justice advisory opinion that the Israeli fence violates international law.
An assembly vote, like the court opinion, is not legally binding. Only the Security Council can order the barrier to be torn down or impose sanctions, but United States -- Israel's closest ally -- would almost certainly use its veto power to block any such resolution.
The 191-member United Nations is considering a draft General Assembly resolution demanding that Israel comply with the court's opinion.
Al-Kidwa said it is not too early to start thinking about sanctions to end Israel's settlement activities because of Israel's "negative response" to last week's court decision. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (search) ordered construction of the barrier to continue despite the ruling.
The court called for the barrier to be dismantled and for reparations to be paid to Palestinians harmed by its construction. Earlier, the Israeli Supreme Court ordered the army to change the route of the barrier in a 20-mile stretch near Jerusalem, saying it was causing too much hardship on the local Palestinian population.
But Israel has refused to recognize the world court ruling, saying it has no authority to deal with the issue.
A vote on the Palestinian-backed draft resolution had been expected Friday but negotiations were taking place with the European Union on the resolution. Al-Kidwa said the vote would be held on Monday.
The Palestinian draft says that if Israel does not comply, the General Assembly would reconvene "to consider further actions to bring to an end the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the wall."
Israeli U.N. Ambassador Dan Gillerman called the court's ruling "a dark day for the International Court of Justice and a dark day for the United Nations" because the advisory opinion ignored Palestinian terrorist attacks against innocent Israelis that forced construction of the barrier.
"We are not impressed by lectures from Palestinian representatives about respect for the rule of law" when they are supporting "a brutal campaign of terrorism which violates every basic legal norm," he said.
Al-Kidwa reiterated that the Palestinians will also go to the Security Council despite the prospect of a U.S. veto.
"This is an issue that is not going to be resolved in either the General Assembly or in court," said U.S. Ambassador John Danforth. "It needs a political resolution."
'We must reject the resolution," Danforth told the assembly.
The General Assembly asked the world court in December for an opinion on the legality of the barrier -- a 425-mile-long complex of high concrete walls, razor-wire fences, trenches and watch towers.
Much of the completed portion is close to Israel's pre-1967 border, but some of it dips into the West Bank. Palestinians say the current route of the wall amounts to a land grab. Israel says it is needed to keep out suicide bombers.