US veto kills UN probe of Israeli military action in Gaza

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United Nations, Nov 12 (UNI) Exercising its veto in the Security Council, the United States has blocked a draft resolution that won the endorsement of ten other members and would have called for a UN fact-finding mission in response to a recent Israeli operation in Gaza resulting in at least 18 civilian deaths.

Sponsored by Qatar, the draft would have condemned Israeli military operations in Gaza as well as the Palestinian rocket fire into Israel, while calling for an immediate withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip and a cessation of violence by both parties.

Four countries Britain, Denmark, Japan and Slovakia abstained on the text, which would have requested that Secretary-General Kofi Annan to constitute a fact-finding mission within 30 days on the November 8 incident in Beit Hanoun, where some eight children were among the dozen and a half people killed.

The US action yesterday followed a day of debate in the Council on Thursday. At that meeting, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Angela Kane voiced shock at the Beit Hanoun incident. She called on Israel to review the implications of its military actions and on the Palestinians to stop rocket attacks by militants, while urging both sides to return to the negotiating table.

The draft resolution would have called on the diplomatic Quartet, made up of the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and Russia to take immediate steps to stabilize the situation, including the possible establishment of an ''international mechanism for the protection of the civilian populations.'' The US envoy to the United Nations, John Bolton, joined other Council members in voicing deep regret over the loss of life in Beit Hanoun, while noting that the Israeli authorities had admitted that the incident had been a mistake and intended to conduct an investigation.

Mr Bolton's veto, his second since he was appointed to the post in August last year, was enough to reject the resolution. The US envoy's first veto, issued on July 13, also rejected a resolution on a previous Israeli incursion in Gaza.


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