UN Security Council to Meet on Yassin Assassination

Discussion follows U.S. defeat of move to bypass debate process; White House 'deeply troubled' by killing, but appeals for calm.

The United Nations Security Council is to convene at 3 P.M. EST (10 P.M. Israel time) on Tuesday evening, to discuss the assassination of Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in Gaza City on Monday morning.

During the debate, the members of the council will determine the UN response to the killing by Israel, although any resolution is subject to a veto by the United States or one of the other permanent members of the council.

The debate will take place after the U.S. foiled an initiative by Algeria to bypass any discussion and move straight to the formulation of a declaration on the assassination. The U.S. instead prevented the release of such a statement, a move that brought about Tuesday's discussion.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Monday condemned the attack on the wheelchair-bound Hamas leader shortly after he left a mosque near his Gaza City home following morning prayers.

White House 'deeply troubled'The White House said Monday it was "deeply troubled" by Israel's assassination of Yassin.

"We are deeply troubled by this morning's actions in Gaza," White House Scott McClellan said.

Earlier Monday, the United States denied it had given the green light to Israel to kill Yassin and appealed for calm in the region following the assassination.

The European Union and other countries condemned Israel's killing of Yassin as a violation of international law that has further "inflamed" tensions in the Middle East.

On Monday night, representatives of the Quartet - the U.S., United Nations, Russia and the EU - will be meeting for talks on the consequences of the assassination in Cairo.

White House national security advisor Condoleezza Rice said in morning television shows the United States did not have advance warning of the assassination from Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom was set to meet Rice, U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Colin Powell Monday in previously scheduled meetings to discuss the peace process.

"It is very important that everyone step back now and try now to be calm in the region," Rice told NBC's "Today" show. "There is always a possibility of a better day in the Middle East and some of the things being talked about by the Israelis - about disengagement from areas - might provide new opportunities."

"I would hope that nothing will be done to preclude those new opportunities from emerging," she added.

Pressed on whether the United States had played a role in Yassin's death or whether Sharon had called President George W. Bush directly to tell him that Israeli forces planned the assassination, Rice replied: "He did not."

She did not directly condemn the attack. "Let's remember that Hamas is a terrorist organization and that Sheikh Yassin himself has been heavily involved in terrorism," she said.

EU: No extra-judicial killingsThe foreign ministers of the European Union nations appealed to Israel and Palestinians on Monday to "refrain from acts of violence which will only lead to more deaths and will put a peaceful settlement still further from reach," and said that while Hamas was guilty of "atrocities," Israel was not "entitled to carry out extra-judicial killings."

In a statement issued at their monthly meeting, the foreign ministers said Yassin's assassination "has inflamed the situation... Violence is no substitute for the political negotiations which are necessary for a just and lasting settlement."

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said the "unlawful" assassination of Yassin, a quadriplegic, would not make Israel any more secure. His killing was "very unlikely to achieve its objectives," Straw said. "I don't believe Israel will benefit from the fact that this morning an 80-year-old in a wheelchair was" assassinated.

Straw spoke of "Israel's paramount need to defend itself" against terrorists, but if it wants "the full support of the international community, it needs to do so within the boundaries set by international law."

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer also said he was "deeply concerned about the possible consequences," and French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said the killing "amplifies the cycle of violence."

He urged Palestinians and Israelis to recommit to the road map, saying, "At the very moment when we are trying to give a new impulse to the peace process, we are quite worried to see that violence is again taking the lead."

Polish Foreign Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz said Monday he feared the implications of the assassination."I'm afraid that it may have very, very negative consequences not only in terms of Israeli-Palestinian conflict but I'm afraid that the threat of terrorist attacks also on other countries, including European [ones], is growing,"

"I really fear that we will see new violence," Luxembourg's Lydie Polfer told reporters.

"Of course we are against assassinations like this. This is not the way ahead. There's only one way ahead, and that is political," said Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller.

The Vatican also condemned Israel's killing of Yassin, saying lasting peace can never be reached by a show of force.

"The Holy See joins the international community in deploring this act of violence not justified in any state [run by] the rule of law," said Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls.

The statement said that authentic and lasting peace "cannot be the fruit of a simple show of force" but is "above all the fruit of moral and legal action."

Turkey condemned as "very dangerous" and "wrong" the killing of Yassin on Monday, while demonstrations were staged outside Israeli diplomatic missions in Ankara and Istanbul.

About 100 people, carrying posters of Sheik Ahmed Yassin, burned U.S, and Israeli flags near the Israeli Consulate in Istanbul. About 50 protesters denounced the attack near the Israeli Embassy in the capital Ankara. Both buildings are heavily protected.

Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said he feared the killing would escalate violence. "The operation Israel conducted this morning is very dangerous. I am very concerned," he said. "It can escalate the situation, it can escalate terrorism," he told reporters.

He said the assassination came when both sides should have been exercising restraint.

Quartet to meet on consequences of assassinationEnvoys from the United Nations, United States, Russia and the European Union have arranged to meet for talks on the consequences of the assassination, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher said Monday.

The four representatives will meet at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo on Monday night.

Maher said that in his talks with U.S. envoy William Burns hours after the assassination, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said there needed to be "a crystal-clear position on the peace process under these circumstances."

Burns, who is America's envoy to the Middle East, is one of the four representatives who is scheduled to take part in the meeting. The others are: the European Union's Marc Otte, Russian envoy Alexander Kalugin and U.N. representative Terje Roed-Larsen.

Iran: Assassination a criminal actIran's vice president Ali Abtahi on Monday called for revenge for the killing of Yassin, "who turned into the leader of the entire Muslim nation after his death." He said that the operation would most likely not lead to the results Israel hoped for. "Now we will all unite and support the Palestinian struggle," he said.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said: "This is a criminal act and a further example of the Zionist regime's barbarity... The Zionist regime will plunge further into the crisis it brought upon itself."

Lebanese President Emile Lahoud said Israel was mistaken if it thought violence could suppress the will of the Palestinians.

"Assassinating any symbol cannot kill those rights but will increase the resistance... Israel will find the same fate in the occupied territories as it found in south Lebanon," he said.

Shops and schools closed in north Lebanon's Palestinian refugee camps and residents took to the streets to vent their anger and vow revenge as the news broke that Israeli helicopters had killed Yassin with rockets outside a Gaza mosque.

A student from Egypt's al-Azhar university, one of the most prestigious institutions of Islamic learning, said students were preparing protests outside their residence in eastern Cairo.

Ahmed Jibril, leader of the radical Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, told Lebanon's al-Manar television: "This Zionist enemy could not have committed this crime without the United States giving it the green light."

"The United States is convinced that we are not a people who are defending a cause but views us as terrorists," he added.

Jordan, meanwhile, vehemently condemned the assassination of Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in Gaza City on Monday, calling it a "massacre", government spokesperson Asma Khader said, and added that the killing "damages any chance for peace in the region."

Popular television preacher Yusouf Qaradawi on Monday called on all Muslims to act against Israel following the assassination.

In an interview to Hezbollah's Al Manar television, Qaradawi demanded that the Muslims of the world give "financial and moral support" to the struggle against Israel.

Qaradawi, who by mistake called Yassin "Ahmed Palestine," said that the assassination has brought an end to all peace initiatives. "They are useless," Qaradawi said, adding that "Israel doesn't care for all the initiatives, and Sharon and his gang only understand the language of force."

Al Jazeera television on Monday interviewed a prominent Islamic leader from Sudan, Hassan Turabi, who made a connection between the Gaza assassination and the goings on in other flashpoints in the Muslim world, such as Chechnya, Indonesia and the U.S. detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

"The struggle will spread to the hearts of the nations," Turabi predicted, and added that Arab regimes would now have to express a resolute position regarding the Palestinian issue, otherwise they will be replaces.

Turabi said that Hamas would continue to operate under the spirit of Yassin, "because Islam has no leadership crises. The prophet Mohammed also had a replacement," he said.

Mohamed Mahdi Akef, leader of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, on Monday called the assassination "an unforgivable crime" and said the Palestinians should not lay down their arms because violence was the only language that Israel understood.

"We will not rest, we will not sleep until the last Zionist leaves our territory," Akef said. The influential Brotherhood shares the Islamist views of Hamas.