Shalom Trying to Reverse UN Censure of Israel

NEW YORK - Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom is using talks with leaders attending the special session of the United Nations General Assembly to try to reverse decades of condemnation of Israel in Assembly resolutions.

He said he had asked for U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell's assistance, and German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer told him Germany would introduce a resolution in the assembly to condemn anti-Semitism.

Shalom said the assembly approved 26 resolutions condemning Israel last year while world poverty, oppression in Sudan and other major concerns were virtually ignored.

He said he intends to ask Secretary-General Kofi Annan to help Israel reduce anti-Israel resolutions and already had met with leaders of a half-dozen Arab countries in trying to rally support for democracy in the Middle East.

In talks with Powell on Tuesday, Shalom lodged a protest regarding a dialogue the European Union is conducting with Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, said a senior source in Shalom's delegation to the United States.

The EU sent an envoy to Lebanon to speak with a representative of Nasrallah, claiming that Hezbollah - a fundamentalist Islamic group operating from Lebanon that is responsible for numerous terror attacks against Israel and other targets - is a political party, Shalom told Powell.

According to the source, Shalom asked: "What kind of political party has thousands of missiles?"

Shalom also protested against the EU's plans to conduct trade with Syria.

The Shalom-Powell talks came ahead of Wednesday's Quartet meeting in New York. The Quartet, which is responsible for the road map plan for Mideast peace, includes the U.S., the EU, Russia and the United Nations.

Powell assured Shalom that the Quartet will issue a "softened" declaration on Israeli-Palestinian relations, the source said. He characterized the talks as "very positive."

The foreign minister also outlined Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's timetable for withdrawing from Gaza beginning next March. Shalom said Powell did not press him for assurances the withdrawal would be only the first step in a wider pullout.

Shalom calls for a democratic IraqShalom told Iraq's interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi at the General Assembly on Tuesday that he hoped for peace in the Middle East as the two shook hands and exchanged pleasantries. Shalom explained that the handshake came about because the two countries were seated next to each other, in alphabetical order.

Shalom said separately that he hoped Iraq will establish relations with Israel, a desire that also was expressed by the United States a year ago, but no commitment has been given.

When the foreign minister arrived at UN headquarters - before the handshake - he was asked about Iraq.

"We would like not to be the only democracy in the Middle East," Shalom said. "We would love that Iraq will join us, and after that the rest of the countries in the Middle East. It would bring more stability to the region and more stability to the entire world."

Iraq's UN Mission said it had no information about the encounter.