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UN assembly holds 'emergency' session on Gaza

world Updated: Jan 16, 2009 10:56 IST

AP
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UN General Assembly President Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann opened an emergency meeting of the 192 nation world body on "illegal Israeli actions" in Gaza by angrily blocking Israel's attempt to halt on procedural grounds what it called a "hateful" session.

D'Escoto argued in the meeting on Thursday that the assembly, as "the most representative and most democratic component of the United Nations," had a duty to step in and make its voice heard because the Security Council's urgent call for a cease-fire a week earlier had been "totally ignored" by Israel and Hamas. More than 60 nations signed up to speak.

D'Escoto, openly leftist and pro Palestinian, is a US born Roman Catholic priest who served as Nicaragua's foreign minister in the 1980s and is a longtime supporter of Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega. He has been repeatedly critical of the United States and of Israel's treatment of the Palestinians.

Israeli diplomat Ilan Fluss argued that the session was "superfluous" because the Security Council is still "seized" of the Gaza conflict, citing Article 12 of the UN Charter. It says the General Assembly "shall not make any recommendation" about a dispute or situation before the Security Council unless it is asked to; in this case, it hasn't been.

D'Escoto countered that the Security Council resolution, approved by a 14-0 vote with the US abstaining, called for the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza. Instead, Gaza "has been turned into a real burning hell," he said, and Israel has been "so disdainful" of the resolution.

D'Escoto has tried to make the General Assembly a major player in dealing with the Gaza conflict, but its resolutions are non-binding so it doesn't have the clout of the Security Council, whose resolutions are legally binding.