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    World Focus: World Body Dogged By Double Standards, U.N. Chief Admits
    Posted on Thursday, September 26 @ 07:38:59 UTC
    Topic: United Nations
    United NationsBy Thalif Deen, IPS

    UNITED NATIONS - U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Monday that the world body has far too long been "dogged" by charges it has two different political yardsticks to measure violations of Security Council resolutions.

    Asked pointedly about the "double-standard" in punishing Iraq for violating resolutions while ignoring Israel's transgressions, Annan told reporters: "I don't 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 last week, Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Shara 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 defence 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.

    Last week, President George W. Bush 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 U.N. resolutions, including one demanding the return of all prisoners from the 1990s Gulf War and another forbidding involvement with terrorism and terrorist groups.

    Bush also accused Iraq of breaching a U.N. 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," Bush added.

    But Arab diplomats counter Bush's argument by pointing out that Washington adheres to a "double standard" in not holding Israel accountable for violating more than 70 U.N. 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.

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

    The Bush administration cast its first veto in March last year when it torpedoed a resolution to create a U.N. 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 Monday 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".

    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.

    Annan said Monday that 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.

    The proposed package of reforms, which builds on an earlier effort undertaken shortly after Annan took office in 1997, includes reducing waste, avoiding overlap and duplication, pooling resources and slashing the unwieldy number of meetings.

    "We must take a critical look at all our activities," Annan told reporters, adding that "many jobs will change, and some functions will disappear".

    During 2000/2001 alone, the United Nations held a "staggering" 15,484 meetings and issued 5,979 reports. "While this trend is in part an inevitable result of an increasingly complex global agenda, it can and should be reversed," Annan said.

    "No reform of the United Nations will be complete without the reform of the Security Council," he added.

    A proposed abolition of the veto power has been high on the agenda of a U.N. working group on the reform of the Security Council.

    But the group has remained deadlocked since it was established by the 190-member General Assembly about five years ago.

    "The perceived shortcomings of the Council's credibility contribute to a slow but steady erosion of its authority, which in turn has grave implications for international peace and security," Annan cautioned.

    Related Links
    · UN member states
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