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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

UN to Hold a Bitter Vote on Arafat

UNITED NATIONS -- Despite a U.S. veto threat, the Security Council was poised to vote Tuesday on a resolution put forward by Arab nations demanding that Israel not harm or deport Palestinian President Yasser Arafat.

The resolution drafted by Palestinian UN envoy Nasser al-Kidwa "demands that Israel, the occupying power, desist from any act of deportation and to cease any threat to the safety of the elected president of the Palestinian Authority."

Washington, Israel's closest ally, is "not prepared to support the resolution in its present form" because it does not explicitly condemn terrorism by Palestinian militant groups and is "very lopsided" against Israel," U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte said.

There was "a perfectly good peace plan already on the table" and senior officials of the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations would meet later this month in New York to explore the next steps in the Middle East, Negroponte said.

The council decided late Monday to schedule a vote on the resolution at the request of Syria, which was acting on behalf of Arab and nonaligned nations.

The decision came after nearly eight hours of harsh debate in the 15-nation Security Council, in which more than 40 governments condemned a decision by Israel's security cabinet to get rid of Arafat through unspecified means.

Speaking at the start of the nearly eight-hour council debate, Terje Roed-Larsen, the UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, questioned the Israeli decision in principle to "remove" Arafat, whom he called the legitimate leader of the Palestinians.

Arafat's forceful removal could be dangerous as well as counterproductive to peace efforts, he warned.

But Israeli Ambassador Dan Gillerman dismissed Arafat as a liar and a "professional terrorist" and predicted his removal would swiftly lead to an end to the conflict.

Arafat "is at the helm of those who have been supporting mega-terror attacks in the style of the bombing of the twin towers, to bring the region to the brink of catastrophe," Gillerman said, prompting Palestinian envoy al-Kidwa to walk out of the chamber.

Arafat wants to reach a truce with Israel, his national security adviser said Tuesday, but Israeli officials brushed aside the offer, demanding instead that the Palestinian Authority crack down on militant groups, The Associated Press reported.

Arafat himself struck a conciliatory tone, but stopped short of making a specific cease-fire offer. "We say to the peace supporters in Israel that we extend our hand to you to revive peace," Arafat said in a speech to about 2,500 Palestinians at his West Bank headquarters.

Arafat and his designated prime minister, Ahmed Qureia, are not in touch with the Israeli government on a proposed truce, officials said. But there are high-level contacts between the Palestinian Authority and militant group Hamas on a new cease-fire, said a senior Palestinian official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The incoming Palestinian prime minister, meanwhile, decided to give Arafat and his ruling Fatah party considerable say in the composition of the new Cabinet.

Sixteen of the 24 ministers in Qureia's new Cabinet will be appointed by Fatah councils controlled by Arafat, officials said Monday.