U.S. Vetoes UN Mideast Resolution

In a rare exercise of its veto power, the United States killed a Security Council resolution early Saturday that condemned "acts of terror" against Israelis and Palestinians.

U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte said wording in the Palestinian-backed resolution was aimed at isolating Israel politically.

He complained that it never mentioned the recent suicide bombings and attacks against the Jewish state or the terrorist organizations responsible, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

The resolution was supported by 12 of the 15 council members, with Britain and Norway abstaining.

The United States has only vetoed six resolutions since May 1990, all dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

In March, the United States vetoed a resolution calling for international monitoring to help protect Palestinian civilians — a measure Israel strongly opposes. Saturday's resolution included a similar call for a "monitoring mechanism."

The United States, Israel's closest council ally, also blocked two similar resolutions this year before they got to a vote.

Arab nations requested the council meeting after Israel cut contacts with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and launched new military strikes against Palestinian Authority targets. This followed new suicide attacks against Israelis, which Jerusalem blames on Arafat's failure to crack down on militants.

The Palestinians demanded a vote on the resolution despite the threat of a U.S. veto.

"We are the little guys," said the Palestinian U.N. observer, Nasser Al-Kidwa. "We are the people under occupation, and it is our right and a duty to come to the body responsible for international peace and security, to the United Nations, to the Security Council, and try to help the situation."

He noted the measure would have passed easily if it weren't for "unreasonable American positions."

Israel's deputy U.N. ambassador, Aaron Jacob, called the resolution "unbalanced and counterproductive" and said "it cannot help the parties return to the negotiating table."

Israeli-Palestinian clashes have intensified recently amid a rash of suicide bombings. Israel stepped up retaliatory strikes against Palestinian Authority targets after an 10 Israelis were killed in a bus ambush Wednesday.

The United States complained that the original draft resolution did not even mention terrorism. A mention of "all acts of terror" was added later.

But Negroponte said the condemnation of Palestinian extremist groups and the attacks on Israelis was not strong enough.

"Terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad are deliberately — and brutally — seeking to sabotage any potential there may be for Israelis to conclude a negotiated peace," he said.

While reiterating the Bush administration's support for a Palestinian state, Negroponte said Arafat must "take a strategic stand now against terrorism," arresting those responsible for terrorist attacks and destroying their operations.

In an apparent reference to Israel's policy of targeted killings and destruction of Palestinian facilities, the draft resolution also would have condemned "all acts of extra-judiciary executions, excessive use of force and wide destruction of properties."