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The Palestinian Authority decided yesterday to delay pushing for a UN Security Council debate on the International Court of Justice's ruling against the separation fence until after the November presidential elections in the United States. However, Nasser Al-Kidwa, the Palestinian observer at the United Nations, is due to submit a draft General Assembly resolution today to Arab members affirming the ICJ ruling against the fence, ahead of a General Assembly vote expected Thursday.

"We decided that it was not wise now to go to the Security Council because we don't want to incite the Americans, especially during the election campaign, and it is better to wait until after the elections," one minister said after a Palestinian cabinet meeting in Ramallah. "In the meantime, we will take the issue to the General Assembly," he said on condition of anonymity.

But other PA officials said the real reason for the delay is the Palestinian assessment that U.S. President George W. Bush will veto a Security Council resolution imposing sanctions on Israel.

The U. N. General Assembly is expected to vote Thursday to affirm the ICJ ruling, which declared Friday that construction of the fence is a violation of international law; called for the immediate end to the building of the "barrier;" demanded that the existing sections of the fence be razed; and said the Palestinian civilians suffering damage from the construction must be compensated.

Al-Kidwa said the ICJ ruling was a diplomatic coup for the Palestinians. Diplomatic sources in New York said that in the wake of the ruling's criticism of settlements as well, the General Assembly resolution would include a clause saying the settlements were illegal and must be dismantled.

A senior Western diplomat said yesterday that in its critique of the settlements, the world court ruling gave the Palestinians a lot more than they had requested.

Although the non-aligned nations' support of the Palestinian-sponsored resolution is guaranteed, Al-Kidwa is also trying to get European Union nations to vote in favor, and is willing to soften parts of the proposal in exchange.

In Bangkok, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan suggested that Israel ought to accept the world court's ruling despite its security needs. "While we accept that the government of Israel has the responsibility and duty to protect its citizens, any action it takes has to be in conformity with international law," Annan said.

Meanwhile, Palestinian sources criticized comments made this weekend by PA Chairman Yasser Arafat, who while talking about the ICJ ruling said several times that "millions of shahids [martyrs] are going to Jerusalem." The phrase was sprinkled among remarks on the fence, which Arafat said would disappear like the Berlin Wall.

"This comment pulls the rug out from Palestinian claims that the fence is not a security fence, and helps Israel portray the Palestinians as bloodthirsty people who use terror," a Palestinian source said yesterday.