Arab Gambit Fails With Security Council

NEW YORK - The United States and other permanent members of the UN Security Council yesterday rejected a draft statement that Arab states wanted the council's president to make, condemning Israeli military actions in the Gaza Strip but failing to mention Palestinian rocket fire.

The proposed presidential statement, which was drafted by the Qatar ambassador and the Palestinian observer to the UN, was unacceptable because it addressed only the Israeli attacks, envoys said.

UN sources said that unofficial consultations with Security Council members yesterday indicated that the vast majority of members are interested in a balanced presidential statement, one that would explicitly mention both parties and call for restraint. Such a statement would resemble the one UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan issued over the weekend, in which he expressed concern about the increasing violence on both sides.

Qatar, one of 10 temporary Security Council members, asked for an official meeting Sunday on what the ambassador termed an escalation of Israeli aggression. However, Qatar, in the name of the Arab bloc, had already decided to suffice with a non-binding presidential statement rather than seek a formal Security Council condemnation of Israel.

Diplomats said the Arab hesitation to push for the condemnation of Israel stems from the belief the bloc would not be able to secure a majority.