Over U.S. objections, the Security Council began debate Tuesday on Israel's decision to extend municipal services from Jerusalem to Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

The Palestinian U.N. representative, Nasser Al-Kidwa, opened the debate by urging adoption of an Arab-sponsored resolution that calls on Israel to stop what it called illegal settlement expansion because it constitutes "a major obstacle to peace.""We hope the council will have the sufficient will to finally undertake the necessary measures to guarantee the rescinding of the plan and to prevent Israel, the occupying power, from undertaking any further illegal actions in Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied territories," Al-Kidwa said.

The 15-member council was meet-ing at the request of Arab envoys to the United Nations, despite Washington's calls to postpone the meeting and its objection to any resolution condemning Israel.

Mindful of the U.S. opposition, Britain's ambassador, John Weston, suggested the council might instead adopt a presidential statement. Such a statement wouldn't carry the same weight as a resolution.

The United States had argued any council action would inflame passions and hinder U.S. diplomatic efforts to revive the stalled Middle East peace process.

Israeli Ambassador Dore Gold also maintained the council has no role in taking up the dispute.

"This is entirely an internal Israeli matter on the municipal administrative level rather than on the international level," he said.

Gold argued Israel's June 21 decision to put some Jewish settlements under Jerusalem municipal authority for certain services, notably building and planning, was purely to bolster the city's economy.

Israel's Cabinet unanimously approved the plan over U.S. protests.