Source: Mehr News Agency
Cuban Ambassador Abelardo Moreno told the UN Security Council on Wednesday that the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) strongly condemns Israel's indiscriminate attacks on the Gaza Strip, Prensa Latina reported. Speaking in a debate on the Middle East situation Moreno stressed NAM's profound disappointment over the Council's incapacity to fulfill its responsibility to keep international peace and security.
Moreno, the current president of NAM's Coordinating Bureau, condemned in particular the land invasion launched by Israel in Gaza in a glaring defiance of the international community's demands for military activities to cease.
He said these aggressions also challenge ongoing regional and international diplomatic efforts to solve the crisis.
Moreno expressed the movement's deep sorrow for the large number of casualties resulting from Israeli attacks and the enormous destruction of properties and infrastructure in the Gaza Strip.
NAM has 118 members.
Medical authorities in Gaza on Wednesday put the death toll in the 12-day Israeli military siege at over 700, including 219 children and 89 women, World Socialist Web Site reported.
The Western permanent members of the Security Council blocked efforts for an immediate ceasefire in Israel's Gaza military onslaught.
Libya, the lone Arab member of the 15-member council, insisted on an early vote on a draft resolution "that demands an immediate end" to the Israeli offensive, AFP reported.
But a rival non-binding statement circulated by France, which chairs the council this month, would merely stress "the urgent need for an immediate and durable ceasefire" and would welcome the truce initiative unveiled by Egypt Tuesday.
"There is no unanimity on either of these texts," France's UN ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert said. "We have decided to continue our discussions."
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said Arab foreign ministers came to New York to get the Security Council to "take immediate action to end the hostilities in Gaza."
Arab ministers want a vote on the Libyan draft, which requires nine votes and no veto from the council's five permanent members --Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States - for passage.
A diplomat said the Arab ministers did not want to return home empty-handed and face the wrath of their public opinion.
"We hope that the council will be ready to vote on the text tomorrow (Thursday)," a diplomat quoted the Libyan delegate as saying during closed-door council consultations.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her French and British counterparts spent most of the day locked in intensive bargaining with their Arab colleagues to try to reach a compromise.
"Of course, we are very much applauding the efforts of a number of states, particularly the efforts that (Egyptian) President (Hosni) Mubarak has undertaken," Rice told reporters on her way to a meeting with UN chief Ban Ki-moon. "We are supporting that initiative."
"I have been in very close discussions with my Arab colleagues but also with the Israelis about the importance of moving that initiative forward," she added.
"We are also talking about how the Council can best support the effective action that could be taken on the ground."
After talks with his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy on Tuesday, Mubarak presented a three-point proposal for ending Israel's war on Gaza.
The Mubarak plan included an "immediate ceasefire for a specific period" to allow humanitarian aid to pass; an invitation to Israel and the Palestinians to come to Egypt for talks on securing Gaza borders, reopening of its crossings and lifting an Israeli blockade.
Egypt's UN envoy Maged Abdelaziz said the key was for Israel to accept the Egyptian initiative and to declare a ceasefire.
He said the Arab group was considering amendments to its draft resolution but found the French-drafted statement unacceptable.
"It is the responsibility of the Security Council to help to end any conflict
as soon as it arises. And the current conflict in Gaza should be no exception,"
Foreign Minister Rais Yatim warned if the council failed to do so, his country would then move "full steam ahead" to initiate a special session of the UN General Assembly to discuss Israel's offensive in the Gaza Strip which has sparked off a new crisis in the Middle East.
Rais told reporters in Putrajaya that Malaysia's call for the special session had been gaining support among countries.
He said the ASEAN members had responded positively to the offer and hoped more countries would support the move so there would be an assertive effort to stop Israel's bloodshed in Gaza.
He said the ultimatum was necessary because one had to exhaust all avenues first before petitioning for a special General Assembly sitting, The Star said on its website on Thursday.
"We were informed that the Security Council may produce a resolution to the Palestine issue.
"We will wait but if it fails, we will have a stronger platform to push for the convening of the General Assembly special session," he said.
Rais acknowledged that such a petition would not be "a breeze" because superpowers like the United States would use its influence to stop it.
"That is why special sessions are hardly convened but it is the overriding right of member countries to petition for one. And, that is what Malaysia intends to do."
On the growing support for Malaysia, Rais said: "I have received letters from my Indonesian counterpart Dr Hassan Wirajuda and also from Asean secretary-general Dr. Surin Pitsuan. Both voiced their commitment and support to see an end to the violence.
"This is a positive indication that Malaysia's views on the Israel-Pales- tine issue are accepted by many."
On Monday, Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi pushed for the special UN general assembly session. The prime minister had also criticized the United States for not doing enough to halt the invasion.
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