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U.N. Security Council delays action on Middle East

From CNN's Ronni Berke
U.N. Producer

UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- The United Nations Security Council Thursday put off a Palestinian request to formally discuss the escalating violence on the West Bank and Gaza and its impact on civilians.

After about an hour of closed consultations diplomats expressed concern for the deteriorating situation, but said they also wanted to give the parties time to consider various diplomatic initiatives before bringing the issue back to the Security Council.

CNN's Sheila MacVicar has more on the continuing violence in the Mideast (May 16)

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"There was widespread agreement in the council that it wasn't appropriate to take a decision at this time," Security Council President James Cunningham of the United States told reporters.

"I expressed the national view that we don't think a meeting at this time would be helpful. That our focus remains on the contacts that are ongoing, very high-level contacts that are ongoing, trying to find a way to move forward."

One Western diplomat said there was a consensus within the council that "we need to keep an eye on it, consider what timing would be sensible, useful," to support proposals offered by an international commission's report and the Egyptian-Jordanian initiative.

"The Security Council effort should be coordinated with ongoing efforts," Chinese Deputy Ambassador Shen Guaofang told CNN.

"In terms of the diplomatic process, the Mitchell commission report, the Egypt-Jordan initiative and contacts between the U.S. and the Palestinians, we should bear that in mind and do nothing that would harm that process," another Western diplomat said.

The Palestinian observer, Nasser al-Kidwa, had requested the meeting with the backing of the Arab Group. In a letter to Cunningham, al-Kidwa asked for an immediate meeting to discuss the situation in the West Bank and Gaza.

The Palestinians failed in two previous attempts to adopt a council resolution calling for the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and the establishment of an observer or protection force for civilians.

Last December, a Palestinian-backed resolution failed to muster enough votes to pass in the council. In March, the United States vetoed a second resolution on an observer force.

Cunningham indicated the United States would likely veto a third resolution. "I think it's fair to say we would not support any step like that. We would oppose a step like that," he said.

The deputy Palestinian observer, Marwan Jilani, expressed disappointment that the council had not taken any formal action.

"For the Security Council to remain silent," he said, "is saying to the Israelis, 'Yes, you can go on with this escalation, nobody cares, you can go on with killing the Palestinians, nobody cares, you can go on and occupy the occupied Palestinian areas and destroy homes and nobody cares. The same message will be even stronger if the U.S. uses its veto again."



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