In a rare move against Israel, the United States is siding with Arab allies in the Persian Gulf crisis and urging U.N. condemnation of the Jewish state for using "excessive" force against Palestinian rioters.
Not since Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982 to drive out the PLO has the United States taken such a strong stance against its close ally, which it frequently shields from denunciation in the Security Council.U.S. diplomats have drafted a resolution that in addition to condemning Israel seeks a U.N. probe into Monday's killings of 19 Palestinians in Jerusalem on the Temple Mount, which is sacred to Moslems and Jews.
But the PLO and non-aligned nations consider the U.S.-drafted measure too weak and vowed to fight it Wednesday with a rival resolution.
U.S. condemnation of the Temple Mount killings was disclosed Tuesday as the 15-member Security Council met to formulate a response to the incident and decide on action to protect Palestinians in the occupied territories.
A council meeting that had been scheduled for Tuesday night was delayed to enable diplomats to try to reconcile conflicting drafts. Diplomats said a vote could take place sometime Wednesday.
Meanwhile in Saudi Arabia, a U.S. Air Force F-111 fighter-bomber crashed Wednesday, killing both crew members, U.S. military officials said.
It was the fourth American aircraft to crash in three days among those deployed to this kingdom for Operation Desert Shield.
Eight Marines are missing in the crash of two helicopters in the northern Arabian Sea on Monday. An Air Force F-4 reconnaissance jet also went down that day, killing both crew members.Lt. Cmdr. J.D. van Sickle, a military spokesman, said the F-111 crashed in the "southern Arabian peninsula" while on a training mission and that the incident was under investigation.
The Middle East war jitters helped push crude oil to more than $40 a barrel, its highest level since the 1979 Iranian revolution.
That's nearly double the price before Iraq's invasion of Kuwait on Aug. 2.
Light sweet crude, the U.S. benchmark grade, rose $1.45 to close at $40.40 a barrel for November delivery Tuesday after gaining nearly $1 Monday. It was the first time the oil finished above $40 on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Crude oil last fetched more than $40 a barrel after the 1979 Iranian revolution. But crude would have to hit about $57 in 1990 dollars to equal the real cost of oil from a decade ago, experts have said.
In Iraq, Saddam Hussein boasted that his country is armed with a new missile that can strike targets hundreds of miles away, and he warned Israel to evacuate occupied Arab lands or face quick vengeance for the slayings of Palestinians in Jerusalem.
The Iraqi president made the statement Tuesday after a senior Palestinian guerrilla leader said Saddam wants the Persian Gulf crisis resolved peacefully, provided the world links the solution to Israel's withdrawal from occupied Palestinian lands.
Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir said Wednesday he will set up an independent inquiry into allegations that police used excessive gunfire to quell the Temple Mount.
In the occupied territories, soldiers kept more than a million Palestinians under curfew for a third day to contain unrest triggered by Monday's violence at the Old City site that is holy to both Jews and Moslems.
In a leaflet issued Tuesday, the PLO-backed leaders of the Palestinian uprising urged revenge attacks on soldiers and Jewish settlers.
"Every soldier and settler in the land of Palestine is a target that should be liquidated," it said.
Israeli security forces killed 19 Arabs and wounded 140 in Monday's clash outside the Al-Aqsa mosque, Islam's third holiest site. It was the bloodiest confrontation of the 34-month-old Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation - and raised an immediate world outcry.
The sudden U.S. move at the U.N. in favor of condemnation appeared intended to avert a U.S. veto of the competing resolution and to preserve the fragile U.S.-led coalition that has isolated Iraq economically and politically for the invasion.
A U.S. veto, diplomats argued, would only benefit the PLO and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, infuriate Arabs and shake U.S. credibility in the Arab world.
Even Kuwait's government-in-exile joined Egypt, Saudia Arabia and more than two dozen other nations in condemning Israel's treatment of Palestinians and demanding that Israel withdraw from territories it seized in the 1967 Middle East war.
"We know full well the bitterness and sufferings of the unarmed Palestinian people under occupation, because we are passing through a similar experience," said Sheik Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah of Kuwait.
The U.S. draft carefully balances criticism of Israeli security forces with condemnation of all violence, including that by Palestinians.
In Washington, President Bush told a news conference, "Israeli security forces need to be better prepared for such situations, need to act with greater restraint, particularly when it comes to the use of deadly force."