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China blasts Security Council silence over UN deaths in Lebanon

The UN Security Council
by Tim Witcher
United Nations (AFP) Jul 27, 2006
China on Thursday blasted the UN Security Council's failure to agree a statement condemning the killing of four UN peacekeepers in Lebanon, amid signs of a backlash on other key negotiations.

An important meeting scheduled for Thursday of six major powers on a resolution against Iran's nuclear programme was postponed indefinitely -- the first apparent victim of the Security Council deadlock over the Israeli attack that led to the deaths.

The United States blocked any attempt to condemn the attack or criticise Israel, diplomats said.

China's UN envoy, Wang Guangya, made a veiled attack on the United States, saying "the policy of one delegation" had frustrated Security Council efforts on Wednesday to pass a presidential statement.

"It is an attack on UN peacekeepers, so we feel that if the UN Security Council cannot send a strong political message supporting our guys on the ground, I think it will be very difficult for people to understand," Wang told reporters.

It was not known when talks would start again on a statement and Wang said: "With each passing day, if we do not do anything then I think the message will be interpreted very negatively."

A Chinese military observer was among the four dead -- with soldiers from Austria, Canada and Finland -- but Wang denied this was a consideration in China's demands for a strong statement.

"The important thing is not whose nationals are being killed but that UN staff on the ground are being killed," he said.

"I think that if we get stuck on this particular issue for political considerations then definitely I think that people will feel frustrated and definitely I think it will affect smooth cooperation on other important issues," Wang said.

"This organisation cannot discuss issues on a selective basis," he said.

"On this council, we have to cooperate with each other, but definitely this frustration will have its negative impact," said the envoy.

No official reason was given for the postonement of the meeting of the UN Security Council permanent members -- Britain, China, France, Russia and United States -- with Germany about the Iran nuclear dispute.

But a diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: "You can draw your own conclusions after what happened last night."

China has taken a leading role in condemning Tuesday's attack in Lebanon. The Chinese government has demanded an apology from Israel and at the start of the Security Council talks distributed a draft statement calling the attack "apparently deliberate".

Other delegations also feel that the failure to pass a statement in support of UN peacekeepers was an embarrassment for the Security Council, diplomats said.

Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin said his country wanted the statement passed on Wednesday. When asked the next move in talks, he said: "I don't know".

"What message are we sending the world if we can't even make a statement about the deaths of people who are meant to be protecting us, who were sent there by the Security Council," said another diplomat from one of the five permanent council members.

"If we can't say anything when something like this happens its pathetic," added another diplomat speaking on condition of anonymity.

Wang said there was also frustration over the general UN Security Council inaction over Lebanon, more than two weeks after Israel launched hostilities against its neighbour.

"It is really unfortunate because I think there are many people who are calling for a stop to this conflict. Most of the people who are being killed on the ground are civilians. But unfortunately this council cannot do anything," said Wang.

The United States has blocked collective international efforts to call for a ceasefire in Lebanon, saying that Hezbollah has to be reined-in before serious efforts can be made to bring a permanent solution.

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