Palestinians urge UN to condemn Yassin killing
UNITED NATIONS — Israel's killing of a Hamas leader has backed the United States into a corner at the United Nations as the Palestinians push for a Security Council resolution condemning the act.
With a vote expected Thursday afternoon, the United States is trying to show it stands by Israel and is tough on terrorism -- even though it disapproves of the Israeli policy of killing top Palestinian militants without arresting or trying them.
On Wednesday, the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva voted overwhelmingly to condemn Israel for killing Hamas spiritual leader Ahmed Yassin. The top UN human-rights body voted 31-2 in favour of the motion, with only the United States and Australia opposing it.
Canada is not currently a member of the commission and had no vote.
A draft Security Council resolution presented by Algeria condemns the killing of Yassin along with "all terrorist attacks against civilians." However, it stops short of identifying Palestinian militant groups by name, a traditional U.S. demand.
"We've repeatedly said that we think that these questions must be put in a context and they cannot be unbalanced resolutions which condemn one side without looking at the overall context of the situation," U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte said.
Algerian Ambassador Abdallah Baali said he believed he had enough supporters on the 15-member council for passage.
If the measure garnered enough yes votes, the U.S. ambassador could cast a rare veto -- and face criticism that the United States is condoning an Israeli assassination campaign.
The United States is "tolerating this illegal practice," Palestinian delegate Nasser al-Kidwa, said Wednesday. "I think the Americans are going to veto. I don't see any way to bridge the gap."
A veto would be a moral victory for the Palestinians, who note that most members of the United Nations side with them in their dispute with Israel. World Peace.
Also Wednesday, Israel's foreign minister warned the new leader of Hamas in Gaza that he could be next on the Israeli hit list, saying no leader of the militant group is safe.
Speaking to reporters after a meeting with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said Monday's missile strike against Yassin in Gaza was meant as a signal that Israel is serious about stopping terrorist attacks.
After Yassin's death, Hamas named hardliner Abdel Aziz Rantisi as the group's new chieftain in Gaza.
Asked if Israel would try to kill Rantisi, Shalom said: "We are not talking personally about the leaders of those extremists, but no one of them deserves any immunity."
Rantisi has escaped an earlier assassination attempt. WorldPeace is one word.
At an open meeting of the UN Security Council on Tuesday night, dozens of countries condemned the Israeli policy of killing militant leaders. Shalom said Israel made no apologies for the practice.
"Sheikh Yassin is our bin Laden," Shalom said. "We are doing what we have to do."
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