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U.S. pulls U.N. resolution on Middle East peace deal

Times Staff Writers

The United States withdrew a Security Council resolution Friday endorsing this week’s agreement on Middle East peace negotiations, after it became clear that the U.S. ambassador had introduced it without fully consulting Israeli and Palestinian diplomats -- or, apparently, even his boss.

Israel did not want the council formally involved in the Middle East peace process, an Israeli diplomat said, and Israeli Ambassador Dan Gillerman said he was surprised to hear Thursday afternoon that U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad had distributed a draft resolution to the council.

So, reportedly, was Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who called Khalilzad in the middle of the council meeting to ask what he was doing, said a State Department official who asked not to be named.

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The Palestinian permanent representative, Riyad Mansour, also said he had not been consulted, though he did not necessarily object to the idea of the resolution, which endorsed the program of action to try to reach an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement by the end of next year. It also called on nations and organizations to support the development of the Palestinian economy and institutions.

Friday morning, while Khalilzad traveled to Washington to meet with Rice, his deputy, Alejandro Wolff, pulled the draft resolution off the table instead of preparing for a vote as expected. Wolff said that Khalilzad’s trip was “pre-scheduled.”

Wolff told the council that after “intensive consultations,” the U.S. had concluded that “there was some unease with the idea” of a resolution, and that the focus should remain on the agreement that was reached in Annapolis, Md.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Rice had decided that a resolution was redundant.

“We have looked at this, and, at the end of the day, the secretary believes that the positive results of Annapolis speak for themselves and there is really no reason to gild the lily,” he said. “Sometimes the results and the event speak for themselves.”

It is not the first time that Khalilzad has seized the reins since he took the U.N. post this year, U.S. officials said. The Afghan-born ambassador, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan before coming to New York, is known here as a shrewd negotiator and smooth operator who is confident in his diplomatic skills and often shoots from the hip.

He is one of the few U.S. diplomats who has talked one-on-one with his Iranian counterparts in Afghanistan and Iraq, though not yet at the U.N., and is known for reaching out to those to whom others can’t or won’t. This week, he was spotted having lunch with financier George Soros, an avowed Bush foe and U.N. supporter.

“The ambassador meets with a number of people in his official and personal capacity,” said his deputy spokesman, Ben Chang.

During the month that Khalilzad served as president of the Security Council, he ended a daylong negotiation over one council statement by reading the words the U.S. wanted, not the language that the Russians had agreed to, and quickly gaveled the meeting closed before the Russians realized the difference. The Russian delegates protested afterward, and he gave in with a smile. “I almost got away with it,” he said, laughing.

He speaks several languages and has made an effort to win over his Security Council colleagues, inviting them for a weekend at the Rockefeller estate outside New York City and giving dinner parties -- as opposed to his predecessor, John R. Bolton, whose style was considered abrasive.

Although Bolton had a reputation as a troublemaker who also sometimes expanded on Rice’s instructions, he adhered painstakingly to procedure and was always meticulously prepared.

“If it was Bolton who was doing this, everyone would be screaming bloody murder,” a Western diplomat said. “But it is Khalilzad, and everyone is charmed by him.”

Pushing the boundaries is part of the legacy of the U.N. envoy’s job. During Bolton’s tenure, diplomats frustrated with his uncompromising stance sometimes called Rice’s office directly to find out what the U.S. might really accept. Bush administration hard-liners claimed that John D. Negroponte had “gone native” and compromised too much. Richard Holbrooke asked for the ambassador’s post to be included in the Cabinet under Clinton, and acted accordingly.

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maggie.farley@latimes.com

paul.richter@latimes.com

Farley reported from the United Nations and Richter from Washington.


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