UNITED NATIONS (Sep. 9)
A step to avert intensifying Middle East tensions was taken yesterday afternoon when the Security Council postponed indefinitely a meeting to debate Israel’s “search and comb” mission last Saturday on guerrilla positions in Lebanon. The debate had been scheduled as a continuation of the one begun Saturday on charges by Lebanon that Israel had invaded its territory with air and ground forces. Meeting in emergency session Saturday afternoon, the Council voted 14-0 with the United States abstaining on an interim resolution introduced by Spain demanding Israel’s “complete and immediate withdrawal.” The Israeli representative to the Council, Shabtal Rosenne, reported that the forces had been withdrawn before the Council met. The 15-member Council decided to meet again yesterday afternoon because there was not enough detailed information on the foray at Saturday’s meeting. The United States and Israel were pleased with the Council’s decision to postpone the debate. Although no official reason was given for the postponement, diplomatic sources attributed the decision to a desire to avoid increasing tensions in the Middle East especially in the critical hours following the terrorist hijackings of three passenger airliners.
Earlier yesterday. Security Council President Dr. Davidson S.H.W. Nicol of Sierre Leone sought to avert a Council censure of Israel. He met with Secretary General U Thant and Ambassador Gunnar V. Jarring in the effort to find a formula to break what Dr. Davidson termed the Council pattern of condemning Israel after raids similar to that of Saturday. The effort, he said, was being undertaken in light of the delicate balance of the Middle East peace talks. “Instead of rocking the boat, which is already rocking, we should attempt something more constructive,” he said. According to UN observers the tone of the Council debate on Saturday was mild compared to the acrimony expressed at the previous Council meeting in May which condemned Israel’s incursion into Lebanon at that time. Mr. Rosenne termed the Spanish resolution one-sided and told the Security Council on Saturday that Israel had acted in self-defense in a “search and comb mission.” He characterized it as a “minor action” undertaken against a background of a four-week period ending Saturday in which “no less than 84 acts of aggression against Israel have been committed from Lebanese territory.” William Buffum, representing the U.S., said that some of the facts along the Lebanon-Israel frontier were in dispute. However, he added, there could not be any dispute that for a long time there had been guerrilla type attacks against Israel and Israeli counter-attacks. While not accepting the Israeli attack, he continued, the Council could not continue to ignore the attacks on Israel.