UNITED NATIONS – In an about face, the United States on Friday withdrew a U.N. resolution endorsing this week's agreement by Israeli and Palestinian leaders to try to reach a Mideast peace settlement by the end of 2008, apparently after Israel objected.
U.S. Deputy Ambassador Alejandro Wolff informed the Security Council that the United States was pulling the resolution from consideration less than 24 hours after U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad introduced it.
Khalilzad had said he needed to consult with the Israelis and Palestinians on the text of the resolution to ensure that it was what they wanted following the decisions by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert at the Mideast peace conference in Annapolis, Md.
Wolff said the U.S. had held intensive consultations in the past few days "and the upshot was that there were some unease with the idea" of a resolution.
Diplomats said Israel, a close U.S. ally, did not want a resolution, which would bring the Security Council into the fledgling negotiations with the Palestinians. The diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said Khalilzad introduced the draft resolution without getting broad support from the Israelis, Palestinians and the Bush administration.
"It's not the proper venue," Israel's deputy ambassador Daniel Carmon said after Friday's council meeting. "We feel that the appreciation of Annapolis has other means of being expressed than in a resolution.
"We were not the only ones to object," Carmon said.
He added that the Americans had told the Israelis that the Palestinians also objected.
Abbas, speaking to reporters in the Tunisian capital, Tunis, said Friday that while he didn't know the details of the draft resolution it was a sign of the seriousness of the United States, which he also perceived at the Annapolis conference.
"This means, if what we have learned is verified, that there are serious steps that speak to the existence of an American position supporting the negotiations," Abbas said.
Wolff said the United States realized that "the focus, we all realized again, should be placed and remain on Annapolis and the understanding that was reached there."
"It's a momentous decision ... and rather than dilute from that and in respect to both parties in terms of what they thought would be most helpful, we reached a conclusion that it would be best to withdraw it," Wolff said.
Normally, the United States would have consulted Israel in advance of introducing a Security Council resolution, as well as the Palestinians, to gauge their reaction.
But on Thursday, Israeli Ambassador Dan Gillerman said he knew "very little" about the proposed resolution, adding "we will be discussing it, and no doubt in very good spirit."
The State Department said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had decided such a resolution was unnecessary.
"We have looked at this and, at the end of the day, the secretary believes that the positive results of Annapolis speak for themselves and there is really no reason to gild the lily," spokesman Sean McCormack said. "I am not sure that we saw the need to add anything else to the conversation. Sometimes, the results and the event speak for themselves."
Two U.S. officials, who on condition of anonymity described Rice's decision to withdraw the draft document, said there were several concerns about the resolution, including the failure to consult the Israelis and Palestinians on the language and the possibility that some on the Security Council might try to add anti-Israeli language to it.
Ambassador Nassir Al-Nasser of Qatar, the only Arab member on the Security Council, said Thursday "we are happy with the language as it is" in the U.S. draft resolution. "I am happy that the council is dealing with this issue," he said. "For me, this is the main thing."
The Annapolis conference drew 44 nations, including Israel's neighboring Arab states. A joint understanding between the Israelis and Palestinians, in doubt until the last minute, was salvaged and Abbas and Olmert reiterated their desire to reach a peace settlement by the end of 2008.
Indonesian Ambassador Marty Natalegawa, the current council president who had hoped the resolution would be adopted Friday, said he wanted to highlight the strong support in the council for the Annapolis conference. Council members were "welcoming, supporting and encouraging the parties to diligently follow up," he said.
"We are more focused at this time on the substance, that there is an absolutely clear message of council unity in supporting Annapolis conference and its achievements," he said.
Deputy Ambassador Konstantin Dolgov of Russia said it was the U.S. right as the sponsor to withdraw the resolution.
"What is important is that discussions showed that there is a lot of support for the outcome," he said. "We think that it would be important, of course, for the Security Council to express itself on this issue because the discussions showed that all Security Council members supported the outcome of Annapolis meeting."