U.N. Council Votes Today on Palestinian Conference


After six weeks of consultation and a day of hectic negotiations, members of the U.N. Security Council postponed until today final action on a resolution to consider calling “at an appropriate time” an international peace conference on the Middle East to deal with the problems of Palestinians in territories occupied by Israel.

Twice on Friday, a scheduled Security Council meeting was put off as the United States and representatives of nonaligned nations on the council sought a compromise.

At one point during an afternoon of intensive back and forth diplomacy, Yemen’s ambassador, who is president of the council this month, said that talks had broken down.

“I am very disappointed,” said Abdalla Saleh Ashtal. “We thought we could, after six weeks of very hard work, we thought we had come to a consensus. But it’s impossible.”


But moments later, U.S. Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering strode into the council’s chamber and said discussions had not broken down.

A primary stumbling block was the wording of part of a resolution sponsored by nonaligned nations on the council which considers calling at an appropriate time an international peace conference on the Middle East to facilitate a comprehensive settlement. It was understood that the United States also objected to specific mention of Jerusalem in the resolution.

But after further negotiations between Pickering and council members, the meeting was postponed until today to give the State Department more time.

The resolution--which the United States succeeded in postponing for a month while Pickering was council president in November--comes at a particularly delicate time for the Bush Administration.

While council members were considering a revised draft, originally sponsored by Colombia, Cuba, Malaysia and Yemen, Israel’s Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir arrived in New York. He will meet with President Bush in Washington next week.

The prospect of further angering Israel, after the United States twice this fall voted in favor of Security Council resolutions critical of that nation’s handling of riots at Jerusalem’s Temple Mount during which 20 Palestinians were killed on Oct. 8, is not pleasant for the White House.

The Bush Administration also does not want to anger Arab members of the coalition it has assembled against Iraq’s President Saddam Hussein--particularly at a time when Iraq has announced the release of all hostages.

In addition, U.S. diplomats don’t want the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians to be linked publicly with the Persian Gulf crisis.