U.S. Says It Opposes Statement Now on Convening of a Peace Conference

The Bush administration continues to be opposed to including any reference to an international conference on the Arab-Israeli conflict in a resolution now being considered by the U.N. Security Council, Secretary of State James Baker said Sunday.

Interviewed Sunday on the ABC-TV program “This Week With David Brinkley,” Baker said that while the United States is not opposed to such a conference at the “appropriate time,” it should not be included now because it would be seen as linkage to the Persian Gulf crisis.

A vote on the resolution, which criticizes Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, was originally scheduled last week, but it has repeatedly been postponed because of U.S. concerns.

The council convened Saturday to discuss the resolution but put off a vote until Monday.

For the third time in two months, the Bush administration is again in a bind over a resolution criticizing Israel. If it vetoes the resolution, it fears the move will antagonize the Arab nations in its coalition against Iraqi aggression.

But if it lets the resolution go through by either supporting it or abstaining, Washington is likely to offend Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, who is now visiting the United States and scheduled to meet Tuesday with President Bush.

Shamir, interviewed Sunday on the CBS-TV program “Face the Nation,” said Israel opposes an international conference. “Israel will not accept it; we will not participate in it; it is a non-starter,” he said.

‘NOT THE WAY TO GET PEACE’

Bush’s national security adviser, Brent Scowcroft, said Sunday that he doubted the president would support an international conference. “This is not the way to get peace,” he said on the NBC-TV program “Meet the Press.”

At the United Nations, U.S. Ambassador Thomas Pickering reportedly has circulated a working paper proposing removal of the reference to the international conference from the resolution and including it in a separate, non-binding council statement.

But the four sponsors of the resolution-Colombia, Cuba, Malaysia and Yemen– have rejected Pickering’s proposal.

The Security Council president, Abdalla all Ashtal of Yemen, has formed a committee with Pickering and Finnish Ambassador Klaus Tornudd to work on a compromise.

The latest draft of the resolution, which originally was introduced three weeks ago, drops the idea of sending an ombudsman to the administered territories to report on the status of the Palestinians living there. Instead, it requests that the secretary-general, using U.N. staff already in the area, monitor events in the territories.

The draft also urges that a meeting be convened of the 164 signatories to the Fourth Geneva Convention, which sets out the protection to be afforded to civilians living under occupation.

(JTA correspondent Aliza Marcus at the United Nations contributed to this report.)

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