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IN THE NEWS - March 16, 2002: UN Resolution on the Middle East - 2002-03-15

This is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program IN THE NEWS.

Tuesday, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution concerning the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. It was the first U-N resolution on that issue since October of two-thousand. It also is the first Security Council resolution that supports the idea of a separate and independent Palestinian state.

The United States proposed the resolution. Fourteen nations who are members of the Security Council voted in support of it. The fifteenth member, Syria, chose not to vote.

Resolution thirteen-ninety-seven says the Security Council supports an idea of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side within secure and recognized borders. The resolution also demands an immediate end to the violence. It says this includes all acts of terror, incitement and destruction. The resolution says the current situation in Israel and the Palestinian territories is tragic. It urges all involved to guarantee the safety of civilians and honor international humanitarian law.

Security Council members also praised the efforts of foreign countries to settle the Middle East crisis. The resolution notes the work of diplomats from the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations.

The Council also welcomed the help of Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. Prince Abdullah recently proposed a plan for peace with Israel. He offered full Arab relations with Israel in exchange for an Israeli withdrawal from territory it captured in the Nineteen-Sixty-Seven War.

The United States had not proposed a resolution linked to Israel in almost twenty-five years. In fact, the United States had used its veto power to stop Security Council action on the issue. The United States has argued that only Israel and the Palestinians can settle their differences.

Yet, the United States Ambassador to the U-N, John Negroponte, says this resolution does not represent a change in American policy. The Ambassador says the United States still thinks Israel and the Palestinians must negotiate agreements. He said the aim of the resolution was to move forward peace efforts and to condemn violence and terror.

The Palestinian representative to the U-N said the resolution is something that should help the situation. Israel said the resolution was balanced.

U-N Secretary General Kofi Annan spoke to reporters the day after the Security Council passed the resolution. He said he was very happy about it. He also said he thought it was important that the United States took the lead in creating it.

Secretary General Annan said the resolution would send a powerful message about the need to end current hostilities. He said it is part of the continuing efforts to move the Israelis and Palestinians forward in the peace process.

This VOA Special English program IN THE NEWS was written by Caty Weaver. This is Steve Ember.