US abstains on Security Council condemnation

 

The US Secretary of State, Ms Madeleine Albright, defended the US decision not to veto the UN Security Council resolution condemning Israel for "excessive force" against Palestinians. But Mrs Hillary Clinton called the UN response "shameful" and one-sided against Israel.

Her opponent in the New York Senate race, Republican Rick Lazio, criticised the Clinton administration for not using its veto.

The resolution does not mention Israel by name but condemns the "excessive use of force against the Palestinians, resulting in injury and loss of human life." It also calls for an inquiry into the violent events of the past week.

Ms Albright yesterday defended the US abstention on the resolution, which was adopted by 14 votes to none after two late-night sittings during which the language was toned down in the hope of averting the veto.

She said on Meet the Press that the US would have preferred to veto the resolution but feared the consequences of such a step in view of the dangerous situation.

President Clinton called off a fund-raising trip at the weekend to remain in the White House, from where he made several calls to the Israeli Prime Minister, Mr Barak, and the Palestinian leader, Mr Arafat. He also spoke to President Mubarak of Egypt.

Mr Clinton's calls focussed on ending the violence, the capture of three Israeli soldiers by Hizbullah guerrillas, and the wording of the UN resolution, which would be "helpful to the situation and acceptable to both sides," according to the White House spokesman, Mr P.J. Crowley.

The US ambassador to the UN, Mr Richard Holbrooke, described the resolution as "one-sided" and "at variance with the facts," noting that it did not mention Israeli casualties. "We decided in the end, because of certain changes and improvements in it, that it was no longer clearly in veto-land. We were prepared to veto it."

Mrs Clinton, in a statement released after the vote, said that the UN response to the events was "shameful". She said: "Its one-sided condemnation of Israel ignores the reality of the past week - Israel must be able to protect its citizens and end the violence."

Mr Lazio in his statement, issued before his debate with Mrs Clinton in New York, said: "This evening, in the dead of night, the Clinton administration unjustifiably vacillated on America's historically unwavering support for the security of the state of Israel, our strongest ally in the Middle East."