Dec. 3, 2004
Israel praises Canada for stands at UN

By URIEL HEILMAN
NEW YORK

Israeli officials at the United Nations said they're pleased this week that Canada decided to oppose one-sided condemnations of Israel in the U.N. General Assembly and that a U.N. panel recommended that terrorism, even in cases of national resistance, be deemed unacceptable.

This week, a special U.N. panel charged with recommending structural changes to the 60-year-old organization issued a much-anticipated report that, among other things, proposed expanding the U.N. Security Council to 24 members from 15, possibly sanctioning pre-emptive military attacks and classifying terrorism as unacceptable even in cases of national resistance.

Also this week, Canada's U.N. ambassador denounced the U.N. General Assembly's condemnation of Israel and announced that Canada would vote against two key resolutions condemning the Israeli presence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In the past, Canada has abstained from such resolutions, and the votes are a signs of a broader shift in Canada's position vis--vis Israel at the United Nations.

Israeli officials viewed the development as good news.

"I think that the change in the U.N. which we saw yesterday is a very positive one," an Israeli official said.

Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Dan Gillerman, declined to comment on the developments. Other officials cautioned that too much enthusiasm from Israel on this week's events-particularly regarding the panel's recommendations on terrorism-would only complicate efforts to solidify support for the moves.

On Thursday, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan endorsed the report of the 16-member High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, which was headed by a former Thai prime minister, Anand Panyarachun, and included former Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa, Russian Foreign Minister Evgenii Primakov, and former U.S. National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft.

"The report offers the United Nations a unique opportunity to refashion and renew our institutions," Annan said in a statement after the report's release. "I wholly endorse its core arguments for a broader, more comprehensive system of collective security."

Annan faced heavy criticism this week in a growing scandal over payments to his son Kojo Annan as part of a corrupt oil-for-food program the U.N. administered for Iraq.

Former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein allegedly raised more than $21 billion by illegally circumventing U.N. sanctions, including the oil-for-food program, and Kojo Annan apparently had received payments until early this year from a firm that had a contract in the oil-for-food program.

The program was designed to provide the Iraqi people with food and medical needs, despite international sanctions against Iraq, in exchange for Iraqi oil. But Saddam diverted a substantial portion of the oil payments to his own coffers.

The secretary general has appointed an independent inquiry into the oil-for-food program and said he had not known of the payments to his son, which were initially disclosed by the New York Sun newspaper.

In the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday, Canada voted against an annual resolution on "the exercise of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people," which Israeli officials say is biased against the Jewish state. Last year, as in previous years, the Canadians abstained on the resolution.

"In our judgment, the resolutions are often divisive and lack balance, no matter how artfully they are crafted," Canada's U.N. ambassador, Allan Rock, said. "Foremost, references to Israeli security needs are often overlooked in the General Assembly."

On the other hand, Canada said it would to support a resolution on nuclear proliferation in the Middle East that singles out Israel, a move Israeli officials said was regrettable and analysts said was an attempt by Canada to show even-handedness on Middle East issues.

Rock said this week's changes are an example of Canada's new multilateralism.

Canada's shift in positions on Israel in the United Nations also coincided with a visit to Canada by U.S. President George W. Bush. In a visit to Halifax, Nova Scotia, the president said Wednesday that the United Nations needs to be focused on "collective security, not endless debate" and that he hoped that other nations would work with the United States to make the U.N. more relevant.