Mon, 16 Oct 2000

IPU meeting opens amid call for peace

JAKARTA (JP): President Abdurrahman Wahid officially opened the 104th Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) conference on Sunday, calling on the organization to contribute to the peace process between the Palestinian people and Israel who are now on the brink of war.

"We have to reach peace, final and everlasting peace in the Holy Land," Abdurrahman said.

In his off-the-cuff address to 1,300 delegates of 12 countries at the House of Representatives Main Hall, which was delivered in English, the President maintained that peace would always require willingness to sacrifice, if necessary, the national pride.

"For the sake of peace, this is justified," he said.

The Indonesian government is among a number around the world to have condemned Israel over its attack on Palestinian territory on Thursday, which claimed over 100 lives.

Also attending the ceremony were Vice President Megawati Soekarnoputri, People's Consultative Assembly Speaker Amien Rais and several Cabinet ministers.

Abdurrahman's statement came minutes after House Speaker Akbar Tandjung expressed in his speech concern about the violence in Palestine.

"The new situation in the Middle East has created a grave concern for all of us," Akbar, who is also chairman of the Golkar Party, remarked.

He said the Indonesian delegation had initiated a proposal of resolution to condemn the Israeli attack.

Meanwhile, IPU's president Najma Heptulla shared the same concern and called for an end to the tragedy.

"I hope this can be settled through a dialog and (the warring parties) continue the peace process," Heptulla, who is also deputy chairwoman of the Rajya Sabha (Upper House) of India, remarked in her speech.

She said the recent violence in the Middle East "has demoralized all who are inheritors of a culture of democracy that opens channels for communication between two divergent perspectives."

Akbar, however, warned that some western countries would stand between the IPU and the resolution condemning Israel. Canada is one of the delegations which has opposed the proposed resolution, Akbar said.

He claimed that Southeast Asian countries, as well as South Korea, China, Japan and Algeria have all expressed their support for Indonesia's proposal.

He said that Algeria and Morocco, which on Saturday proposed a similar resolution on the Middle East crisis, have agreed to join forces with Indonesia.

"We would divide among us duties to lobby other delegations who remain defiant of a resolution against Israel," Akbar said.

He admitted to having approached IPU President Najma Heptulla to seek her support for the draft resolution. The IPU will hold a plenary session on Monday to debate, among other things, the proposed resolution.

A resolution needs four fifths of the votes cast, meaning that Indonesia has to seek support from at least 90 countries in order to get the resolution passed.

"So, it's a hard struggle but we still have a chance," Akbar said.

Deputy Chairman of the Indonesian delegation Joko Susilo expressed regret that Iran did not support Indonesia's proposal to condemn Israel.

"We are very disappointed with Iran, who instead supported the South African proposal for an international arrangement to overcome existing natural disasters," Joko, who is also a legislator from the National Mandate Party, said after the opening ceremony.

He said Indonesia originally proposed that the IPU not only condemn but "punish" Israel.

"Condemnation is too lenient. Israel should be punished for violating international law," he remarked.

He said Indonesia's draft resolution was revised in order to receive extensive support from IPU delegates.

Israel is a member of the IPU but has failed to send a delegation due to security concerns.

In addition to a plenary session on the current political issues, the week-long conference will elect the president and vice president of the conference on Monday.

The IPU meeting, which is taking place at the Jakarta Convention Center, will also discuss a possible request for amendment to the statutes and rules of the Union.

Later on Monday, the Union's international humanitarian law committee will also hold a meeting. (jun)