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Outcome of UN Council Meeting On Mideast In Doubt - 2001-08-17

The United Nations Security Council begins another open debate on the Middle East crisis Monday but the outcome of the session is in doubt. As always, the subject is drawing intense interest with more than 40 nations signing onto the speaker's list by Friday afternoon. The meeting was formally requested by members of the Islamic Conference at the United Nations on behalf of the Palestine Observer Mission.

Although the session will provide a forum for debate, Security Council President Alfonso Valdiviezo of Colombia told reporters there is still no consensus about what the outcome of the session will be. "There has not been any decision on the outcome," he said. "We will see if we can reach some agreement on the outcome. It could be a resolution or a presidential statement or whatever might be reached out of the debate."

An Arab-backed draft resolution is being circulated that, among other things, calls for the establishment of a "monitoring mechanism" to help "create a better situation on the ground" in the West Bank and Gaza.

The structure of a "monitoring mechanism" is not defined in the draft. Last March, Israel strongly opposed another Arab-backed resolution that called for international observers in the occupied territories and the resolution was vetoed by the United States.

The U.S. position was, and is, that an observer force can be effective only if endorsed by both Israel and the Palestinians. Israel continues to reject the idea of an international observer force, regardless of what it may be called.