Sweden supports Goldstone report

Sweden supports Goldston

The UN report that condemned Israel's actions during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza will be the focus of a Security Council debate next week, rescheduled after Libya requested an "emergency meeting" to consider the report. The Libyan request - affirmed by Palestinian diplomats and Arab states - brought the 15-member council together for a closed-door meeting Wednesday, in which they denied the request for a special meeting to discuss the report but agreed to move a regular Middle East debate from October 20 to October 14. "Most Security Council members yesterday were clear that the issue should be dealt with in Geneva," a Western diplomat said. Mandated by the Human Rights Council, a fact-finding mission led by Judge Richard Goldstone last month found both Israel and Hamas guilty of war crimes related to Operation Cast Lead; the nearly 600-page report accuses Israel of using disproportionate force and failing to protect civilian lives. Ahead of the Security Council meeting, a fragile agreement was reached in Geneva to postpone a vote on the report until at least March. "It's absurd, in a way. The Human Rights Council decided not to debate it until March, so you bring it here?" the diplomat said. But with Palestinian support, Libyan diplomats have vowed to press forward. "We are going to have an open debate. The foreign minister of Palestine will participate," said Libyan Ambassador to the UN Abdurrahman Shalgham, noting that the aim was "to keep the momentum regarding this report." On Thursday, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said he supported the Goldstone report. Sweden currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Union. Speaking to reporters in Stockholm, Bildt praised Goldstone as a man of "high credibility" and "high integrity," adding that as a result, his report carried weight. Also Thursday, Bildt told Swedish Radio that Israel had made a "mistake" by not cooperating with the inquiry, which he described as "independent" and "serious." But other European countries did not express similar sentiments in Wednesday's meeting, according to one observer, who said, "They are supposed to speak in one voice, but not necessarily on this issue. The EU members objected to bringing it." Alejandro Wolff, the US deputy ambassador to the UN, told reporters Wednesday that the Goldstone report was "flawed." "The right venue to discuss this is in Geneva and in the Human Rights Council," he said. American officials have also backed a delay in the Human Rights Council vote, leaving open a stronger possibility of dialogue and the resumption of Middle East peace talks. "All of our energies right now are being employed to move this process forward, and we want to clear the decks of any issues that might impede our progress towards this," State Department spokesman Ian Kelly told reporters at a Wednesday press briefing. But Arab ambassadors made it clear that they planned to use next Wednesday's debate to turn the spotlight on the findings of the report. The next move could be the General Assembly, the current president of which, Ali Abdussalam Treki, is Libyan. Under pressure from Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, Treki could exert his influence in the General Assembly. A spokesman for Treki said he had no immediate plans to do so, but noted, "I think that at some stage, this report will have to end up in the GA. We'll just have to wait." The wait could be short, however. Sudanese Ambassador Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem Muhammad, chairman of the 22-member UN Arab group, said the Goldstone report "should be operationalized and should not be sidelined." If the Security Council does not implement the report's recommendations - including the option to refer the matter to the International Criminal Court - "we will go to the UN General Assembly," he said.Â