Syria To UN: Condemn Israeli Raid

Syrian Ambassador to United Nations Fayssal Mekdad speaks at Security Council meeting called by Syria and the Arab League at United Nations in New York, Sunday, Oct. 5, 2003 (AP Photo/David Karp)
AP
Syria demanded the U.N. Security Council condemn an Israeli air raid on a purported Palestinian training camp near Damascus on Sunday. Israel's ambassador defended the attack, accusing Syria of harboring terrorists.

The emergency meeting of the council was called at Syria's request. Syria's U.N. Ambassador Fayssal Mekdad called on the 15-member body to adopt a resolution condemning the attack as "military aggression."

Israel continues "to flout the Charter of the United Nations to the point that Arabs and many people across the globe feel that Israel is above the law," Mekdad said.

Syria's draft calls for Israel to stop acts that could threaten regional security. It was unclear when the council would vote on the resolution, but a decision appeared unlikely Sunday.

The Israeli raid — on what it claimed was an Islamic Jihad training base — came in retaliation for a suicide bombing carried out by the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad on Saturday. The bombing, at a restaurant in the Israeli coastal city of Haifa, killed 19 people and the bomber.

"The clear message is that in this axis of terror between Tehran, Damascus and Gaza there will be no immunity," Israeli government spokesman Raanan Gissen told CBS News.

On Sunday, Yasser Arafat installed an eight-member emergency Cabinet with Ahmed Qureia as prime minister, an apparent attempt to deflect possible Israeli action against him following Saturday's suicide bombing.

Israel threatened last month to "remove" Arafat, without setting a time, and there were new demands for his expulsion after Saturday's attack by Islamic Jihad.

Israeli Ambassador Dan Gillerman, speaking after Mekdad, accused Syria of providing "safe harbor, training facilities, funding, logistical support" to terrorist organizations.

He said the strike was a "measured defensive response" and an act of self defense that did not violate international law.

He said it was ironic that Syria which Israel accuses of harboring terrorists, should call for a meeting to condemn the attack and compared it to Osama bin Laden demanding a Security Council meeting after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Gillerman also expressed anger that the meeting was called just before the holiest Jewish holiday, Yom Kippur.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan condemned the airstrike, and a statement from his office said the U.N. chief was concerned that the "escalation of an already tense and difficult situation has the potential to broaden the scope of current conflicts in the Middle East."

Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa had called for the Security Council meeting in a complaint to Annan and the president of the Security Council, currently the United States.

"Syria is not incapable of creating a resisting and deterring balance," the letter said.

The United States appealed for restraint on all sides, but accused Syria of harboring Islamic Jihad and other terror groups. Gillerman said he did not expect the United States to support Syria's resolution.

France, a permanent Security Council member, criticized the bombing as an "unacceptable violation" of both international law and the rules of sovereignty.