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Palestine hopeful US won't use veto

Jan. 19, 2011 9:26 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 21, 2011 10:41 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Member of the Palestinian negotiating committee Nabil Shaath told a French delegation Tuesday that he believed the US would have a hard time using their veto on a draft resolution submitted to the UN over Israeli settlement building.

US officials, however, the same day warned at the United Nations that putting the resolution to a Security Council vote would "complicate" peace efforts.

While the US has still not said though whether it would veto the measure, Israeli media has said indications are that the resolution will be quashed.

The draft resolution against Israel's building in the occupied territories and East Jerusalem was formally put to the 15-member council on Tuesday night with Lebanon, Brazil and South Africa as the council sponsors.

The council is meeting for talk on the Middle East, and focus is expected to be on developments in Lebanon and Tunisia, nations whose governments collapsed in the previous weeks.

A date for discussion of the draft resolution, which seeks a UN condemnation of settlement building in occupied Palestinian areas, has yet to be set, and no vote is expected for several days, possibly weeks.

Shaath, however, was optimistic, saying that given the US stance on settlements, the repeated calls by the US administration and even US President Barack Obama himself, would make it "extremely difficult for the US to use the veto," given that the resolution echoed the same sentiments.

Palestinian ambassador to the UN Ryad Mansour said the resolution would help revive direct talks, which stalled after Israel revved up settlement construction in the wake of a moratorium that ended 26 September.

"There are a lot of political activities in all corners of the globe, in all capitals," Mansour told reporters. "Our objective is to remove this obstacle from the process of negotiations."

"We are working very hard with all Security Council members, including the United States of America, to succeed in having the council adopt this draft resolution," he said. "That would send a very powerful message to the occupying power, to Israel, to listen."

Shaath said that consultations ahead of the tabling of the resolution had gone well, saying "there is not one single country that opposes this resolution," and asked the French delegation publicly, "would a nation oppose a resolution that expresses official what leaders have repeated again and again about settlements?"

The negotiations official said that he believed, based on the strong rhetoric used by the US, the EU, Russia, the International Quartet and South American nations, that support would be granted. "They say settlements are illegitimate and an obstacle facing the peace process and must be stopped," he explained, adding that "this resolution can accomplish that."

US not keen on resolution

"We believe that continued settlement expansion is corrosive, not only to peace efforts and the two state solution but to Israel's future itself," US deputy ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo told a Security Council meeting on the Middle East.

"As we have consistently said, permanent status issues can be resolved only through negotiations between the parties and not by recourse to the Security Council.

"We therefore consistently oppose attempts to take these issues to this council and will continue to do so as such action moves us no closer to the goal of a negotiated final settlement."

DiCarlo said a council resolution "would only complicate efforts to achieve that goal."

US officials are still refusing to say whether the United States would use its traditional veto of resolutions against Israel.

"I'm not going to speculate on what happens from this point forward," US State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Tuesday when asked about a possible US veto. US officials at the United Nations added nothing to that.

The United States is alone among the five permanent veto-wielding members of the Security Council in opposing the resolution.

The other four -- Britain, China, France and Russia -- have all indicated they would probably vote for the resolution, diplomats said.

The diplomatic Quartet on the Middle East -- the United States, Russia, United Nations and European Union -- are to meet in Munich on February 5. Some diplomats said the fate of the resolution may only be decided after that.

The resolution is one prong of a new diplomatic offensive by the Palestinian Authority. It has now secured recognition from 107 countries and Mansour said he was confident that two thirds of the 192 UN members would "shortly" be signed up.

No Israeli diplomats were at Wednesday's Security Council debate because of a strike by Israeli foreign ministry staff.

AFP contributed to this report

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