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EU split over Syrian plea to UN to condemn Israel
( 2003-10-09 08:54) (Agencies)

Syria's drive for a U.N. resolution condemning an Israeli air raid on its territory stalled in the Security Council for another day on Wednesday as Damascus looked for possible compromise with a divided Europe.

All four of the council's European Union states -- France, Britain, Spain and Germany -- have signaled Syria that its draft resolution had to be more balanced to win their support.

But while Britain was insisting, along with Washington, that the resolution must condemn Saturday's deadly suicide bombing in Haifa, Israel, to win its vote, France was making no such demand, diplomats said.

Spain and Germany also were making less explicit demands than Britain in pursuit of a balanced text, they said.

Syrian U.N. Ambassador Fayssal Mekdad said on Wednesday that his government, lacking the nine votes needed for council approval, was still weighing its options.

But in remarks to a closed meeting of Arab ambassadors, he said he could live with France's ideas for greater balance but not the British proposals, Arab envoys said.

Asked about that statement, Mekdad said that inserting a reference to the Haifa attack in his resolution was "something that is impossible to accept."

But he denied Damascus was trying to exploit EU divisions.

"We don't want division at all," he told Reuters. "We want all to understand that the situation is very serious."

One EU envoy, acknowledging EU disarray on the Syrian draft, added that EU governments were consulting with one another on Wednesday in search of a united stand.

But this would not be easy, this envoy added. "Not even Israel made a clear link between the Haifa attack and the raid on the alleged terror training camp."

Syria could now either drop the resolution, seek compromises that could broaden its support or bring it to a vote knowing it faced certain defeat, council diplomats said.

But even if Damascus managed to round up nine votes, a U.S. veto was likely as Washington has signaled it could not accept a resolution that failed to condemn both the Haifa bombing and Palestinian militant groups that have in the past taken responsibility for suicide bombings in Israel.

But Syria would prefer a U.S. veto to a defeat in the 15-nation council because the veto would underline differences between the Europeans and Washington -- Israel's closest ally, diplomats said.

The air raid on Sunday was Israel's deepest strike into Syria since the 1973 Middle East war. Syria says the target was a civilian site and that it has the right to defend itself.

But Israel argues that Syria harbors, trains and funds the militant groups launching suicide attacks on its territory -- allegations denied by Damascus.

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