UNITED NATIONS Russia accused the United States on Monday of blocking a bid by the U.N. Security Council to condemn the escalating conflict between Israel and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and said other council members were filibustering the issue.
Russia's U.N. envoy Vitaly Churkin said he was prepared to introduce a resolution - a stronger move by the council than a statement - to call for an end to the violence and show support for regional and international efforts to broker peace.
Churkin said he would draft a resolution if agreement could not be reached among the 15 council members on a statement, which has to be approved by consensus. A resolution is passed when it receives nine votes in favor and no vetoes by the five permanent council members - Russia, China, Britain, the United States and France.
"One member of the Security Council, I'm sure you can guess which, indicated ... they will not be prepared to go along with any reaction of the Security Council," said Churkin, making a thinly veiled reference to the United States.
"Somehow, allegedly, that could hurt the current efforts carried out by Egypt and the region," he said.
Israel launched a major offensive against Palestinian Hamas militants in Gaza on Wednesday, killing Hamas' military commander in an air strike and threatening an invasion of the enclave that the Islamist group said would "open the gates of hell."
The Security Council held an emergency meeting on the same day to discuss Israeli strikes but took no action. The council is generally deadlocked on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which U.N. diplomats say is due to the U.S. determination to protect its close ally Israel.
Council diplomats, who did not want to be identified, said the United States' U.N. delegation had been instructed by Washington not to engage in consultations on Monday on a statement on Gaza and Israel, circulated by Morocco last week.
One council diplomat said U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice told the council that the United States wanted to be sure that a council statement would not be detrimental to mediation efforts by Egypt to end the fighting.
France, Germany and Britain submitted amendments to the draft Security Council statement on Monday, diplomats said, but Churkin said too many changes had been proposed.
"Unfortunately it looked like a little bit of a filibustering attempt. Maybe I am mistaken, maybe it's just a laid-back attitude in a situation where we cannot afford procrastination," Churkin told reporters after consultations.
One council diplomat described the filibustering accusation as "utter nonsense."
(Editing by Mohammad Zargham)