The Final Call Online Edition



WEB POSTED 10-08-2002

















Annan: Perceived 'double standard' at UN is a problem

UNITED NATIONS (IPS)óUN Secretary General Kofi Annan said recently that the world body has long been "dogged" by charges it has two yardsticks to measure violations of Security Council resolutions.

Asked about the alleged "double standard" in punishing Iraq for violating resolutions while ignoring Israelís violations, Mr. Annan told reporters: "I donít think I have given a single press conference in the Middle East or an interview with a Middle East journalist where the question of double standards has not come up."

This is a "tough issue," which the United Nations and the Security Council has to deal with, he added.

"This question comes up often and I hope the Security Council will be able to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian issue once and for all and put this behind. But it is tough," he said.

Addressing the General Assembly, Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Shara recently said the only way out of the Middle East crisis is to make Israel abide by all Security Council resolutions.

"Why should the world request Iraq to adhere to Security Council resolutions, while Israel is allowed to be above international law?" he asked.

"It is indeed odd that the United States considers Israel acting in self-defense in occupied territories that are acknowledged to be occupied by Security Council resolutions, which the United States played a role in drafting and adopting since the foundation of the United Nations," he said.

President George W. Bush has made a case for a military attack on Iraq on the grounds that Baghdad was not only developing weapons of mass destruction but also violating 16 UN resolutions, including one demanding the return of all prisoners from the 1990s Gulf War and another forbidding involvement with terrorism and terrorist groups.

Mr. Bush also accused Iraq of breaching a UN resolution against the repression of its own people.

"By breaking every pledge, by his deceptions and by his cruelties, Saddam Hussein has made the case against himself," President Bush added.

But Arab diplomats counter the Bush argument by pointing out that Washington adheres to a "double standard" in not holding Israel accountable for violating more than 70 UN resolutions, since its creation as a nation in 1948.

Israel has not only refused to implement Security Council resolutions calling for the return of land captured in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, but also violated resolutions "reaffirming the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination, national independence and sovereignty, and the right of the Palestinians to their homes and property."

Since the founding of the United Nations 57 years ago, the United States has used its veto on 75 occasions, virtually all of them on Middle East resolutions or to "protect" Israel, Arabs say.

The vetoes include those cast against a resolution "deploring" Israelís altering of the status of Jerusalem; calling for self-determination for the Palestinian peoples; demanding Israelís withdrawal from the Golan Heights; condemning air strikes on southern Lebanon; and deploring Israelís actions in the repression of the Palestinian uprising.

The Bush administration cast its first veto in March of last year when it torpedoed a resolution to create a UN observer force in Israeli-occupied territories, a proposal strongly opposed by Israel.

"In real fact," one Arab diplomat said sarcastically, "Israel has traditionally been the sixth veto-wielding member of the Security Council."

The United States, Britain, France, China and Russia are the five nations that can veto resolutions.

"The United States has continued to be a proxy for Israel. whenever the United States exercises its veto, it is doing so on behalf of Israel," he added.

Speaking on behalf of the 115-member Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), Ambassador Jeanette Ndhlovu of South Africa told the Security Council that the sense of despair, frustration and hopelessness in the Middle East is brought about by occupation and "by the fact that no land has been returned in exchange for peace as required by Security Council resolutions."

"For far too long," she said, "Israel has ignored the decisions of both the Security Council and the General Assembly."

Ms. Ndhlovu also pointed out that Israel routinely violates even the most basic provisions of international humanitarian law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention, which protects nationals of a country from an occupying power.

Israel also continues to illegally occupy Syrian and Lebanese territory, and is in violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Lebanon, she added.

Mr. Annan said reform of the Security Council and its vetoes will be an important part of overall changes that he will introduce to make the cash-strapped United Nations more relevant to the needs of the 21st century.

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