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[casi] Robert Fisk March 14

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  Robert Fisk: The forgotten power of the General Assembly
  14 March 2003
  For 30 years, America's veto policy in the United Nations has been central to its foreign policy. 
More than 70 times the United States has shamelessly used its veto in the UN, most recently to 
crush a Security Council resolution condemning the Israeli killing of the British UN worker Iain 
Hook in Jenin last December.

  Most of America's vetoes have been in support of its ally Israel. It has vetoed a resolution 
calling for the Israeli withdrawal from the Syrian Golan Heights (January, 1982), a resolution 
condemning the killing of 11 Muslims by Israeli soldiers near the al-Aqsa mosque (April, 1982), and 
a resolution condemning Israelis slaughter of 106 Lebanese refugees at the UN camp at Qana (April, 

  The full list would fill more than a page of this newspaper. And now we are told by George Bush 
Junior that the Security Council will become irrelevant if France, Germany and Russia use their 
veto? I often wonder how much further the sanctimoniousness of the Bush administration can go. Much 
further, I fear.

  So here's a little idea that might just make the American administration even angrier and even 
more aware of its obligations to the rest of the world. It's a forgotten UN General Assembly 
resolution that could stop an invasion of Iraq, a relic of the Cold War. It was, ironically, pushed 
through by the US to prevent a Soviet veto at the time of the Korean conflict, and actually used at 
the time of Suez.

  For UN resolution 377 allows the General Assembly to recommend collective action "if the Security 
Council, because of lack of unanimity of the permanent members, fails to exercise its primary 
responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security".

  This arcane but intriguing piece of UN legislation  passed in 1950 and originally known as the 
"Uniting for Peace" resolution  might just be used to prevent Messrs Bush and Blair going to war 
if their plans are vetoed in the Security Council by France or Russia. Fundamentally, it makes 
clear that the UN General Assembly can step in  as it has 10 times in the past  if the Security 
Council is not unanimous.

  Of course, the General Assembly of 1950 was a different creature from what it is today. The 
post-war world was divided and the West saw America as its protector rather than a potential 
imperial power. The UN's first purpose was  and is still supposed to be  to "maintain 
international peace and security".

  Duncan Currie, a lawyer working for Greenpeace, has set out a legal opinion, which points out 
that the phrase in 377 providing that in "any case where there appears to be a threat to the peace, 
breach of the peace or act of aggression", the General Assembly "shall consider the matter 
immediately" means that  since "threat" and "breach" are mentioned separately  the Assembly can 
be called into session before hostilities start.

  These "breaches", of course, could already be alleged, starting with the American air attack on 
Iraqi anti-ship gun batteries near Basra on 13 January this year.

  The White House  and readers of The Independent, and perhaps a few UN officials  can look up 
the 377 resolution at

  If Mr Bush takes a look, he probably wouldn't know whether to laugh or cry. But today the General 
Assembly  dead dog as we have all come to regard it  might just be the place for the world to 
cry: Stop. Enough. -- Rbt Fisk

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