UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Syria on Friday drew a comparison between Israel's recent demolition of Palestinian homes with the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The United States and Israel called the comments "outrageous."
Syria's Deputy U.N. Ambassador Fayssal Mekdad used his country's maiden speech as a new Security Council member to accuse Israel of "state terrorism" against the Palestinians and to implicitly criticize the United States for blocking council condemnation of the Jewish state.
"We must note the scene of tens of Palestinian houses which have been demolished by Israeli tanks in the Rafah camp a few days ago. It is not much different from the scene of the World Trade Center which was destroyed by the terrorists," he said.
A U.S. official called the statement "extremely unfortunate, unhelpful and offensive."
Last week, the Israeli army demolished dozens of buildings in the Rafah camp in Gaza, saying they were empty houses gunmen were using for cover in attacks against Israeli forces. But U.N. aid workers said hundreds of Palestinians were made homeless.
While stressing that the United States did not condone what the Israelis had done, the American official who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the Syrian leader drew "false parallels" with the attacks in New York and Washington that killed about 3,000 people.
"It was an outrageous statement for them to make," the official said. "We're very disappointed. We obviously want to work with the Syrians in the council, and we'll continue to urge them to work with us to fight terror wherever it is."
Israel's U.N. Ambassador Yehuda Lancry, in a speech to the council late Friday, said he regretted Syria's "baseless allegations."
He called Mekdad's statement "a transparent attempt to divert attention from Syria's own record as a country that supports, encourages, finances, and harbors a vast gamut of terrorist organizations."
The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Negroponte, is scheduled to visit Syria next week during a Mideast tour to press for cooperation in the Security Council.
Syria, which is on the U.S. list of countries accused of supporting terrorism, was chosen last year to be a member of the 15-nation council for two years starting in January.