Wed, Oct 08, 2003 - Page 6 News List

Syria urged to revise resolution on raid by Israel


UN Security Council diplomats said on Monday a draft resolution condemning Israel's air raid on Syria would have to be rewritten for more balance to win the nine votes needed for council adoption.

Even then, the draft was likely to face a veto from Washington, which has threatened to block any measure that failed to denounce major Palestinian militant groups taking responsibility for suicide attacks on Israel, the envoys said.

After brief closed-door talks, the Security Council set no date for further action on the text by Syrian Ambassador Fayssal Mekdad that would express "grave concern" over rising Middle East tensions and condemn the Israeli raid as a violation of international law and the UN Charter.

Israel on Sunday attacked a site near Damascus, saying it was a training camp for Palestinian militants. The raid came a day after a suicide attack in Haifa, Israel, killed 19 people.

The air raid was Israel's deepest into Syria since the 1973 Middle East war, angering many Syrians but so far drawing only a diplomatic, not a military response from Damascus.

Mekdad, presenting the text to an emergency Security Council meeting on Sunday, had called for immediate action.

But diplomats said on Monday after consulting their capitals that fewer than half of the council's members could vote for the Syrian proposal as written.

And US Ambassador John Negroponte, the council president for October, said Washington would not support a resolution that condemned the Israeli raid but failed to condemn terrorism and made no mention of the Haifa attack.

Mekdad said council members had given him some ideas on how to revise the measure to gain broader support. He said he sent these back to Damascus and could return to the council as soon as yesterday with a new draft.

"We hope the US does not use the veto and that it practices its role as a superpower in preventing aggression and escalation," a Syrian Foreign Ministry official said.

But Russia, which like the US has veto power in the council, said that the draft needed more balance to win passage.

"We believe it would pass if it had a more balanced nature, particularly if it in some way reflected the idea of the necessity of stopping acts of terror in the region," Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Yuri Fedotov said.

Israeli Ambassador Dan Gillerman told the council on Sunday the raid on Syria had been carried out in self-defense, as a measure against future terrorist attacks.

He accused Syria of "complicity and responsibility" in Palestinian suicide attacks, saying Damascus was harboring, training and funding Palestinian militant groups.

Syria has repeatedly denied the accusations, but Washington reiterated that message on Monday.

"We urge both Israel and Syria to avoid actions that heighten tensions or that could lead to hostilities, but we have repeatedly told Syria that they need to stop harboring terrorists," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.

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