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UN Fails to Act on Syrian Proposed Censure of Israel - 2003-10-07

A draft resolution condemning Israel's air strike on Syria is on hold at the U.N. Security Council. The attack inside Syria followed a Palestinian suicide bombing Saturday at a restaurant in the northern Israeli city of Haifa, which killed at least 19 people. No date has been set for resuming debate on the measure.

The Security Council met Monday, but adjourned without taking up Syria's demand that Israel be censured for bombing a suspected terrorist training camp near Damascus.

U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte said Washington views the Syrian-sponsored resolution as unbalanced, and is waiting for Syria to submit a revised draft, before taking up the measure again.

"We certainly thought the resolution is deficient in many respects. Most importantly, it fails to condemn terrorism on the one hand, and makes no reference to the suicide bombing attack in Haifa Saturday night," he said. "We think these are two enormous gaps in the Syrian proposal."

The Security Council held a rare Sunday session at Syria's request to consider the resolution, which expresses grave concern at the Israeli air strike. But the meeting adjourned without a vote, after hours of sometimes heated arguments. Several Council members condemned the raid as a violation of international law, but Israel's ambassador characterized it as a legitimate act of self-defense.

In Washington Monday, President Bush said Israel has the right to defend itself against terrorist attacks, but cautioned against any actions that would escalate tensions in the region.

Syria's U.N. Ambassador Faisal Mekdad said Monday that revisions to the draft are being considered. But he admitted that the chances of getting a nine-vote majority on the Council - not to mention avoiding a U.S. veto -- are slim.

"Frankly speaking, the positions we have heard are not encouraging," said Mr. Mekdad. "On the issue of the Israeli attack, we must hear new position by the United States condemning the issue, not condoning Israeli attacks against Arabs, Syrians or Palestinians, and return to role of the United States as peace broker, as a reliable peace broker, that looks fairly at needs of Arab side, because the present policy is one-sided."

Ambassador Mekdad said he did not know when a revised draft resolution would be ready for consideration. He said he was awaiting further instructions from Damascus, which could come as early as Tuesday.