The United Nations General Assembly voted Friday to condemn U.S. military intervention in Panama and called on the United States to halt its action and withdraw its invasion forces.
The assembly voted 75-20 to adopt a resolution presented by Cuba and Nicaragua, two allies of ousted Panamanian leader Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega. Thirty-nine nations abstained and 25 of the 159 assembly member states were absent.The resolution said the General Assembly strongly deplores the U.S. invasion, "which constitutes a flagrant violation of international law and the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of states."
It "demands the immediate cessation of the intervention and the withdrawal of U.S. invasion forces from Panama."
U.S. delegate James Wilkinson branded the resolution backward-looking. "The resolution turns a blind eye to a history of repression in Panama and virtually ignores the freely expressed will of the people of Panama," Wilkinson said.
He said U.S. troops have achieved their mission of restoring democracy in Panama and the "dictatorship has ended, thugs and drug runners have been ousted from power."
Despite its condemnation of the U.S. invasion, the General Assembly allowed a representative of the newly installed Panamanian government of President Guillermo Endara in Panama to address the body.
Leon Abadi, who had been the deputy representative in the pro-Noriega U.N. mission, said the U.S. intervention was motivated by the desire to restore democracy in Panama. Abadi also said the Endara government has met all constitutional requirements and should be recognized by all governments.
"Panamanian people have suffered too much under a dictatorship led by a narco-terrorist and we fought for years to win back our democracy," he told the assembly.
Among the 19 countries that voted with the United States against the resolution were Australia, Canada, Israel, El Salvador, France, Britain, Japan, Panama and Turkey.
Latin American countries were divided in the vote. Costa Rica and Honduras abstained, while Guatemala, Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, Chile and Brazil voted for the condemnation. Most Caribbean nations abstained.
The Soviet Union and China voted for the resolution.
Meanwhile, the United States praised the Vatican for its efforts to ease Noriega out of the Vatican mission where he has taken refuge, and U.S. forces detained two more top aides to the increasingly isolated former dictator.
The Vatican however said it would take steps - which it did not specify - if U.S. harassment of the papal embassy and Noriega does not stop.
"The nuncio is doing his best to convince General Noriega to abandon the nunciature on his own," said Joaquin Navarro, Vatican spokesman in Rome. "At the same time he cannot force Noriega to leave nor can he consign him to U.S forces."
For Noriega, leaving the embassy would be tantamount to surrendering to U.S. troops posted 10 feet from the gate. The troops are inspecting all cars, including that of papal nuncio Sebastian Laboa.
U.S. forces detained Noriega's personal doctor and chief economic adviser, bringing to six the number of top aides that have been arrested or surrendered by walking out of the embassy in the past 48 hours.
Also Friday, the remains of an American teacher were discovered in Panama and his daughter blamed Panamanians for his death. The American - the third U.S. civilian to die since the conflict began - was identified by his daughter as Raymond Dragseth, a teacher at the Panama Canal College, a Defense Department facility.
Meanwhile, estimates of the damage in the looting spree that tore through Panama City in the days after the attack climbed to $2 billion, according to the Chamber of Commerce.
Panamanians continued working to recover from the chaos and destruction that followed the U.S. invasion. Newspapers ran ads asking people who looted merchandise to bring back the goods and offered rewards with no questions asked.