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UN Assembly Tells Israel to Tear Down Barrier

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UN Assembly Tells Israel to Tear Down Barrier

Tue Jul 20, 2004 07:42 PM ET

By Irwin Arieff

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. General Assembly voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday to demand that Israel obey a World Court ruling and tear down its West Bank barrier.

The vote in the 191-nation assembly was 150-6, with 10 abstentions.

All 25 European Union countries voted in support of the Palestinian-drafted measure after its Arab sponsors approved a series of amendments proposed by the EU bloc over days of intense negotiations.

However, the United States, Israel's closest ally, voted "no" after U.S. Deputy Ambassador James Cunningham warned that the resolution was unbalanced and could further undermine the goal of a Middle East in which Israeli and Palestinian states live side by side in peace.

"All sides are now focused on Gaza and partial West Bank withdrawal as a way to restart the progress toward this vision," he told the assembly.

Israeli also voted 'No' and denounced the vote.

"Thank God that the fate of Israel and of the Jewish people is not decided in this hall," Israeli Ambassador Dan Gillerman said after the vote. "This resolution cannot but embolden those who are the true enemies of the Israeli and Palestinian people."

The World Court ruled on July 9 that the barrier, which is still under construction, was illegal because it cuts deep into West Bank land to shield settlements built by Israel on territory it seized in the 1967 Middle East War.

Israel says the barrier is only temporary and argues the combination of razor-tipped fencing and concrete is needed to keep out suicide bombers.

But Palestinians see the 370-mile project as a land grab that would thwart their dream of statehood.

Reuters 2004

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