The United Nations Security Council says serious thought must be given to a new Middle East peace plan proposed by Saudi Arabia. Dozens of speakers have addressed the Council to consider this latest proposal as well as alternatives aimed at restoring the peace process.

Last week, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan called on the world community to come up with fresh ideas to resolve the political impasse in the Middle East. The government of Saudi Arabia seems to have picked up the challenge.

Under a new proposal offered earlier this week by the de facto leader of Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince Abdullah, Arab states would be required to recognize Israel's right to exist, provided Israel makes peace with the Palestinians and withdraws from contested land in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.

Members of the Security Council say this proposal, and others, must be given serious thought.

U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte complimented the Saudi government for its proposal. "I would note the positive contribution Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah's comments make to the political horizon for the region," he said. "Real peace between Israel and all her Arab neighbors arising from a comprehensive peace based on United Nations Security Council resolutions 242 and 338 and the principle of land for peace. The public support of several Arab states for these ideas is also important."

Not everyone agreed. Ambassador Mikhail Wehbe of Syria laid the blame for the current crisis solely on the Israeli government. "The main reason for what is transpiring in the occupied Arab territories is the Israeli occupation of territories in Palestine, Lebanon and Syria. In this connection, it seems that Israel has not yet realized the fact that killing begets only killing," he said.

Israel's representative Aaron Jacob said his country has proven its commitment to peace because it has already endorsed peace proposals suggested by former Senator George Mitchell and CIA Director George Tenet. The cause of the current impasse, he said, is a lack of commitment on the part of the Palestinian Authority.

"The Palestinian leadership purports to condemn terrorism to the world, while legitimizing and supporting it at home," he said. "To Western audiences, Palestinian representatives have known to speak in the language of peace, but to their own people they speak in the language of hatred and holy war." Despite the conflicting opinions on the causes of the Middle East crisis, there appears to be a clear commitment to take up the challenge set out by Mr. Annan. More than two dozen countries have requested time to speak in this debate, including every representative on the Security Council.