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SA warns Israel of possible sanctions

By John Battersby
Cape Argus
April 05 2002


The South African government summoned Israeli ambassador Tova Herzl to the Union Buildings on Friday to call on the Israeli government to immediately implement a unanimous United Nations resolution calling on Israel to declare a ceasefire in the 20-month old conflict.

The message contained an indirect but unprecedented warning about the possible imposition of sanctions against the Jewish state. There was a strong call for sanctions from Arab states at the Arab summit in Beirut last weekend.

Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad told the Israeli ambassador: "The Arab Group this week conveyed to the South African government that the current military offensive by Israel is leading to a situation where there is serious talk of imposing sanctions against Israel."

The South African gesture, which amounts to a strong protest, is in line with growing international pressure on Israel to pull its tanks and artillery from almost every major West Bank town.

Although the UN resolution was passed a week ago it was followed on Friday by another unanimous resolution making it obligatory in terms of international law for Israel to carry out the contents of the earlier decree.

Pahad also demanded that Israel allow international diplomatic representatives to enter the besieged West Bank town of Ramallah and have immediate access to their offices.

Pahad also welcomed the statement on Thursday by United States President George Bush calling on Israel to withdraw its forces from Palestinian towns, and for the Israelis to respect basic human rights.

However, Bush also chided Palestine Liberation Organisation chairman Yasser Arafat for failing to curb Islamist radicals responsible for recent suicide bomb attacks.