U.S. Ambassador Jeane J. Kirkpatrick on Tuesday vetoed a Security Council resolution condemning Israeli policy in southern Lebanon despite threats by Shia Muslim militants that they would retaliate against Americans for such a veto. Lebanon charged that the U.S. action would encourage Israeli brutality there.
Eleven countries voted for the resolution, and only the United States opposed it, with Britain, Australia and Denmark abstaining. An opposing vote by any of the Security Council's five permanent members blocks adoption of a resolution.
The overwhelming vote in support of the Lebanese-sponsored text came despite an intensive U.S. lobbying effort to dissuade other council members from providing the nine-vote minimum needed to force a veto.
Threats by Radicals
Washington's effort to avert the veto was motivated largely by threats of radical groups in Lebanon that Americans there would face reprisals if the United States blocked the resolution.
The United States vetoed a similar resolution last Sept. 6, and on Sept. 20 a suicide truck-bomb attack on the U.S. Embassy annex outside Beirut killed 14 people, including two Americans.
The resolution vetoed by the United States on Tuesday would have condemned "Israeli practices and measures against the civilian population in southern Lebanon...which are in violation of the rules and principles of international law." It would have directed a fact-finding mission to report on Israeli activities in Lebanon, and it called on Israel to immediately halt its crackdown on towns suspected of harboring guerrillas and "unconditionally" withdraw its forces.
At Washington's request, the United Nations has withdrawn about three dozen Americans who worked for the U.N. peacekeeping force, most of them in southern Lebanon, U.S. officials said other unspecified precautions have been taken to avert another attack.
Four council members--France, Thailand, Peru and Trinidad and Tobago--said they would have preferred modifications to the resolution urging all parties to refrain from the use of violence. But after Lebanon rejected last-minute amendments offered by Britain, they voted for it, together with the Soviet Union, the Ukraine, China, Egypt, India, Madagascar and Burkina Faso (formerly Upper Volta).
Israeli Ambassador Benjamin Netanyahu told the council that the debate would not stop Israel from enforcing its policy or proceeding with its withdrawal. But he predicted that it would "encourage the forces of fanaticism and extremism" and said the vote for the resolution shored "a truly historic surrender to blackmail by members of the Security Council."
The outcome of the debate--in which about 40 countries spoke--was seen by Western diplomats as a demonstration of Syria's political power. They said the Syrians had dictated the terms of the resolution and thee timing of the vote to demostrate that they cannot be left out of the Middle East political process.