Council members met on Sunday but are not expected to vote before Monday on a demand from Syria that the council condemn the most serious Israeli attack on that country in three decades.

Syria called it a "flagrant violation by Israel of international laws and a new and serious escalation" in the tense region.

But Israel called the attack earlier on Sunday a legitimate act of self-defence against a state that supports "terrorists". The air raid came a day after the bombing of a restaurant in the Israeli town of Haifa that left 19 dead. The Palestinian group Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility and Israel said its air strike was aimed at a training camp for the group.

A draft resolution presented by Syria "strongly condemns the military aggression carried by Israel against the sovereignty and territory of the Syrian Arab Republic ... in violation of the charter of the United Nations, the rules and principles of international law and relevant Security Council resolutions".

The draft also calls on the Security Council to declare the attack a violation of a 1974 disengagement deal between Israel and Syria and to demand Israel not act in a way that threatens regional security. The draft would task UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to report to the council in a month on Israel's compliance.

Escalating tensions

Earlier, Annan warned of escalating tensions in the wake of the Israeli air strike, spokesman Fred Eckhard said, urging all parties in the region "to respect the rules of international law and to exercise restraint".

"There are few better exhibits of state sponsorship of terrorism then the one provided by the Syrian regime"

Dan Gillerman,
Israel's UN ambassador

Imad Mustafa, Syria's acting ambassador in the United States, told CNN Damascus was counting on the United Nations to solve the crisis.

"We have made a strategic option for peace. This is what we want," Mustafa said. "We are going to the United Nations because we believe that the United Nations Security Council is the only internationally legitimate venue to solve crises."

But Israel's UN ambassador, Dan Gillerman, criticised the council for rushing into session on the eve of the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur while ignoring repeated Palestinian attacks on Israel, calling it a double standard that puts the world body's credibility at risk.

"There are few better exhibits of state sponsorship of terrorism then the one provided by the Syrian regime," Gillerman said.