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Palestinians ask U.N. to act over W. Bank barrier

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By Mohammed Assadi

RAMALLAH, West Bank, July 11 (Reuters) - The Palestinian Authority said on Monday it would ask the United Nations to take punitive measures against international companies whose products Israel uses in its West Bank barrier project.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Nasser al-Kidwa named only one firm, Illinois-based Caterpillar Inc <CAT.N>, whose earth-moving machinery and bulldozers are among the equipment used by the Israeli army to clear ground and sometimes Palestinian homes for the barrier.

"We want to see some concrete measures," Kidwa said in an interview with Reuters.

"We are proposing completely punitive measures against entities, companies and individuals that contribute to the construction of the wall and other illegal activities in the occupied Palestinian territory," he said.

Kidwa said such measures could include undertakings by U.N. member states not to issue visas or work contracts to companies linked to the barrier project.

There is little chance the United States and others in the U.N. Security Council would approve such sanctions.

But some Arab envoys hope that recommendations by the world body's 191-member General Assembly might spark boycotts by attrition, similar to those used effectively against South Africa over apartheid.

The World Court has judged Israel's network of razor wire-tipped fences and concrete walls to be illegal because it is built on occupied territory.

Israel ignored the court's call to stop the project, saying the barrier is justified because it stops Palestinian suicide bombers from reaching cities hit by dozens of attacks since a Palestinian uprising began in 2000.

Caterpillar, responding to criticism by human rights groups over the use of its equipment by the Israeli military, has said sales to Israel comply with U.S. law and are conducted through Washington's Foreign Military Sales Program.

At an April 14 meeting, 96 percent of Caterpillar's shareholders backed the company's position that it cannot enforce how its equipment is used.

BARRIER GROWING

Kidwa made the comments a day after Israel's cabinet decided to build another segment of the barrier around Jerusalem, in what Israeli officials said would be the effective separation of 55,000 Palestinian residents from the rest of the holy city.

Palestinian officials said the actual number of Palestinians to be cut off from jobs, schools and hospitals in Jerusalem and surrounding areas would be about 100,000.

The Palestinians want Arab East Jerusalem as the capital of the state they hope to establish in the West Bank and Gaza. Israel regards all of Jerusalem as its capital, a claim that is not recognised internationally.

Kidwa said Sunday's decision, which is to be implemented by September, shocked the Palestinian leadership and necessitated quick action.

"You cannot talk peace and at the same time colonise the Palestinian land, continue to construct the wall and continue to build settlements. This will destroy the present and the future of the Palestinians," Kidwa added.

"That's why the international community has to stand up and put an end to these illegal, horrible, illegal activities -- some of which constitute war crimes," he said, while at the same time calling for a resumption of peace efforts with Israel.

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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