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Thu 17 Feb 2011 01:18 PM

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Arabs to take Israeli settlement row to United Nations vote

Arab nations will call for a vote in the UN Security Council in move likely to spur the first veto from the Obama administration

Arabs to take Israeli settlement row to United Nations vote
Arab nations will call for a vote in the UN Security Council on February 18 on a draft resolution demanding a halt to Israeli settlement construction

Arab nations will call for a vote in the United Nations Security Council on February 18 on a draft resolution demanding a halt to Israeli settlement construction, a move likely to produce the Obama administration’s first UN veto.

Palestinian Authority and Egyptian envoys said the group decided to put the measure to a vote after rejecting a US offer to increase pressure on Israel to stop settlement activity in exchange for the withdrawal of the text.

“Too little, too late,” Egyptian Ambassador Maged Abdelaziz said.

Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the UN, presented the deal to Arab ambassadors Wednesday in an effort to avoid having to veto their resolution, according to Abdelaziz and Palestinian Authority Ambassador Riyad Mansour. A committee of Arab foreign ministers rejected the deal, and their UN ambassadors informed Rice of the decision on Thursday.

Rice told the Arabs the US would support stronger statements on settlement construction and other issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by the Security Council and the Middle East Quartet, which is composed of the US, Russia, the UN and the European Union.

She also indicated that the US would consider backing a Security Council trip to the Middle East that Russia has proposed.

The US mission to the UN declined to comment on the meetings.

The draft resolution, which would declare construction activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem illegal, was circulated to Security Council members last month. The US has said it opposes bringing the issue to the panel, where 14 of the 15 members would likely vote for the measure. More than 130 nations have agreed to co-sponsor it.

 “We demonstrated a tremendous amount of flexibility and understanding,” Mansour said. “We drafted language that is agreed on in previous resolutions and statements of the Quartet, and tried our best to convince everyone. The position of the Security Council has to be crystal clear. We think that by adopting this draft resolution it will be a huge contribution to moving the peace process forward.”

The US opposes “attempts to take these issues to this council and will continue to do so, because such action moves us no closer to the goal of a negotiated final settlement,” US Deputy Ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo said in a January 19 meeting of the Security Council.

She reiterated the US view that “continued settlement expansion is corrosive, not only to peace efforts and the two- state solution, but to Israel’s future itself. Like every US administration for decades, we do not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity.”

The Quartet, which is scheduled to meet on March 15, stopped short of calling for a halt to settlement activity in a February 5 statement, saying only that it “regrets the discontinuation” of Israel’s 10-month moratorium on settlement construction.

President Barack Obama last year offered Israel a package of incentives to halt settlements that included a pledge to block such proposed resolutions in the Security Council, and then abandoned attempts last month to broker a freeze on construction after Israel refused to halt building.

About 500,000 Jews have moved to the West Bank and East Jerusalem since Israel captured the territories in the 1967 Middle East war. The UN says the settlements are illegal, and the International Committee of the Red Cross says they breach the Fourth Geneva Convention governing actions on occupied territory.

Israel says the settlements don’t fall under the convention because the territory wasn’t recognized as belonging to anyone before the 1967 war.

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