Indonesia, Qatar delay condemning Iran over Israel

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Indonesia and Qatar delayed on Friday a proposed U.N. Security Council statement condemning comments by Iran’s president that forecast the destruction of Israel.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Sunday that Lebanese and Palestinians had pressed a “countdown button” to bring an end to the “Zionist regime.” “By God’s will, we will witness the destruction of this regime in the near future,” he said in a speech.

France’s U.N. Ambassador Jean-Marc de la Sabliere, who initiated the statement, said that calling for the destruction of Israel was “unacceptable” and that the council had to react as it did in October 2005 when the Iranian president said Israel should be “wiped off the map.”

But he said “one delegation did not have instructions,” which diplomats identified as Qatar, and “another delegation had reservations and is going to report back to its capital.” That country was Indonesia.

Unlike a resolution, a statement by the council has to be unanimous, in effect giving veto power to each of the 15 member countries. Sabliere said he would try again on Monday.

U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad told reporters, “A statement by a head of state calling for or implying the destruction of a member state of the United Nations is, as a matter of principle, unacceptable” and threatens “international peace and security.”

On Thursday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed shock and dismay at Ahmadinejad’s comments and said Israel was “a full and long-standing member of the United Nations with the same rights and obligations as every other member.”

Sabliere, asked why the Security Council did not intervene when Israel took unacceptable actions, said, “France is always in favor of having the Security Council being more active on the Israeli-Palestinian issue.”

“But you have to be careful. What is at stake here is a matter of principle,” he said. “When a president of a country talks about the destruction of another country, member of the United Nations, it is a serious issue.”

Khalilzad agreed. “Criticizing that statement does not mean one should not be critical of policies or activities or actions by Israel, but it is different than calling for the destruction of Israel by a head of state,” he said