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OAS Calls for U.S. Withdrawal From Panama

December 22, 1989 GMT

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Latin American states voted today to express deep ″regret″ over the use of U.S. military force in Panama and urge an immediate end to fighting there.

The early-morning vote after a marathon emergency session of the Organization of American States also called for the withdrawal of troops used in the U.S. action, but it did not condemn the intervention outright and sought no timetable for the American troops to leave.

A resolution by Nicaragua to condemn the use of force to oust Panamanian Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega from power was not formally considered.

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″We are disappointed that the OAS missed an historic opportunity to get beyond its traditional narrow concern over ’nonintervention,‴ a State Department official said. ″The resolution is unbalanced. It does not cite the root problem - Noriega.″

The State Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, noted that the language of the resolution was to ″regret″ rather than condemn.

John Maisto, the U.S. deputy permanent representative to the OAS, earlier called the final resolution ″a mixed bag. ... We’re a little disappointed. It certainly wasn’t an extreme resolution, but it’s a little detached from what is really happening in Panama.″

The OAS political council voted 20-1 with six abstentions ″to deeply regret the military intervention in Panama.″

The Spanish-language version of the resolution distributed after the vote used the words ″deplorar profundamente,″ which translates more closely to ″deeply deplore.″

OAS press spokesman Miguel H. Frankenfeld said, however, that the official English version was ″regret.″

″That’s how they sold it to the Caribbean nations,″ said a State Department official who asked not to be identified.

The resolution noted ″the serious events (in Panama), especially the armed clashes resulting from the military intervention by the United States and the deplorable loss of lives and property.″

U.S. Ambassador Luigi Einaudi cast the only negative vote on the motion engineered by Peru, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Uruguay and Argentina.

The resolution urged ″the immediate cessation of hostilities and bloodshed (in Panama) and the launching of negotiations between the various political sectors of that country that will lead to a concerted solution of the Panamanian institutional crisis.″

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″There was not a condemnation,″ said Maisto. ″It was just an expression of the need for withdrawal (of troops), which is not unlike what President Bush has called for - when the job is completed.″

A U.S. attempt to term the invasion a ″military action″ failed with only three votes among the 26 delegates who attended the 17-hour debate and negotiation. Only Honduras and Costa Rica supported the United States.

Another amendment by Costa Rica and Guatemala to blame Noriega for the ″chaos and anarchy″ that prompted the U.S. move was also defected by a 7-2 vote with 12 abstentions.

Venezuela was the only leading Latin democracy to abstain from the final vote. Venezuela has urged the OAS to express some form of recognition to the U.S.-installed government of President Guillermo Endara.

The OAS said it ″reaffirmed that solving the crisis Panama is undergoing at this time necessarily requires the full respect for the right of the Panamanian people to self-determination without outside interference and faithful adherence to the letter and spirit of the treaties″ under which the United States is to turn the Panama Canal over to Panama in 2000.

The security of the canal is one of the reasons cited by the Bush administration for launching the invasion.

Einaudi also failed by an 11-4 vote with two abstentions in an attempt to add to the resolution a mention that the OAS charter itself allows each nation the right of self-defense.

Einaudi said that once Noriega declared a state of war against the United States, the U.S. government ″clearly have the legitimate right of self- defense″.

Einaudi also said the U.S. has tried to work out a peacefully solution of the Panamanian situation thought the OAS but ″it is impossible to reason with a dictator. At the end, Noriega has got what he deserved.″