DAMASCUS - Syria urged the United States on Monday not to block a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Israel's air strike near Damascus, saying Washington should help prevent escalation of tensions in the Middle East.
"We hope that the United States does not use the veto and that it practices its role as a superpower in preventing aggression and escalation," an official source at the Foreign Ministry told Reuters.
"We hope that the United States joins those who condemned this aggressive operation and those are the vast majority in the world community," the source said.
Syrian youngsters stand under the statue of late Syrian President Hafez al-Assad at a museum commemorating the 1973 Arab-Israeli war in Damascus, October 5, 2003. Syria said on Sunday an Israeli airstrike had targeted a civilian site near Damascus in a 'grave escalation' of tensions in the Middle East and called for an immediate Security Council session. Israel had said the raid, which came the day after a suicide bomber killed 19 people in an Israeli restaurant, was aimed at a training camp for 'terror groups.' REUTERS/ Khaled al-Hariri
Syria called an emergency Security Council meeting on Sunday over Israel's attack to secure a measure that condemns the raid, saying it threatened regional and international peace.
Syria wanted an immediate vote but Washington said the measure had to go to the capitals of council members for study.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Negropnte accused Syria of harboring "terrorists" and steered clear from criticizing Israel for the air strike.
Israel said it did not intend to pick a fight with Syria but wanted the air strike to serve as a warning for it to stop Palestinian militant groups operating on Syrian territory.
Syria denies links to "terrorist groups" but says there is a difference between terrorism and legitimate resistance to Israeli occupation. It says Palestinian militant groups only have media offices on its territory.
Israel said its deepest air strike into Syria in 30 years on Sunday targeted a training camp for Palestinian militants and was in self-defense following a suicide bombing in Haifa by a radical Palestinian group on Saturday that killed 19 people.
Washington said it would not support the Syrian resolution condemning Israel's raid as it made no mention of the suicide attack.
Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Walid al-Moalem summoned the ambassadors in Damascus of the five permanent member states of the Security Council earlier on Monday to urge their support.
He emphasized "the necessity that their countries condemn this Israeli act of aggression and prevent Israel from carrying out these acts that form a grave escalation," a ministry statement said.
Russia, which has a veto power on the Security Council, said on Monday the Syrian resolution may pass if it had more balance.
"We believe it would pass if it had a more balanced nature, particularly if it in some way reflected the idea of the necessity of stopping acts of terror in the region," said Deputy Foreign Minister Yuri Fedotov, Russia's most prominent Middle East specialist.
"At the same time we have no objection to raising the issue of the vital importance of halting all actions running counter to international law," he added.
Copyright 2003 Reuters Ltd