In an emergency meeting of the 15-nation council, called after Israel attacked what it claimed was a training camp for Palestinian resistance fighters near Damascus, council member Syria called for an immediate vote on a draft resolution condemning the Israeli action.

Syrian Ambassador Faisal Mikdad urged the council to voice "grave concern" at the escalating tensions in the Middle East and condemn the Israeli raid as a violation of international law and the UN Charter.

But Israel insisted that the raid, carried out a day after a Palestinian resistance bombing in Haifa killed 19 people, was carried out in self-defence, as a measure against terrorist attacks.

The United States, Israel’s key ally, downplayed the raid instead accusing Damascus of fuelling terrorism.

Israel accuses Damascus of fuelling attacks by harbouring, training and funding Palestinian guerilla groups.

All but one

Of those council members who spoke during the emergency session, all but Washington denounced both the Haifa attack and the raid on Syria.

"The answer to individual acts of terrorism is not state terrorism nor is it wanton attacks against other countries in violation of international law"

Munir Akram,
Pakistani ambassador to the UN

Even the US’s nominal allies in its “war on terror” accused Israel of illegal aggression.

Spanish Ambassador Inocencio Arias told the council that the Haifa bombing "cannot lead us to overlook or minimise the extreme gravity of the attack perpetrated today against Syria. That attack is a clear violation of international law."

British Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry strongly condemned the Haifa bombing, but said Israel's attack represented an escalation of the conflict and undermined the peace process.

Pakistani Ambassador Munir Akram went further, saying, "The answer to individual acts of terrorism is not state terrorism nor is it wanton attacks against other countries in violation of international law."

Dozens of Middle Eastern ambassadors also slammed Israel.

US counsels 'restraint'

But US Ambassador John Negroponte, who has veto power in the council, was critical only of Syria.

He said Washington had learned about the raid only after it was carried out and had advised both Syria and Israel to exercise restraint. 

"And we have consistently told Syria that it must cease harbouring terrorists and make a clean break from those who are responsible for the planning and directing of terrorist actions from Syrian soil," he added.

"Let's not forget that a suicide bombing took place in Haifa ... It just is incredible to me that a draft resolution ... would have no reference whatever to this dastardly act"

John Negroponte,
US ambassador to the UN

Negroponte also made clear the Syrian draft, which made no reference to the Haifa bombing, would not pass as written.

"Let's not forget that a suicide bombing took place in Haifa; 19 Israelis were killed, including some Arab Israelis; 50 more people were wounded. It just is incredible to me that a draft resolution coming from a member of the council would have no reference whatever to this dastardly act," he said.

Tables turned

Israeli Ambassador Dan Gillerman accused Syria of "complicity and responsibility" in Palestinian attacks on his country and said Syria should be in the dock.

"For Syria to ask for a debate of the council is comparable to the Taliban calling for such a debate on 9/11. It would be laughable if it wasn't so serious," he said.

The Taliban provided a base for al-Qaida, which Washington blames for the 11 September, 2001 attacks.

The fate of the resolution was unclear after the emergency session ended late on Sunday evening.

Negroponte said the measure would first have to be sent to capitals for study and added that there had as yet been no discussion of the timing of any vote.

Other diplomats said there would certainly be no action on Monday, the Yom Kippur Jewish holiday.