"The security council is deeply shocked and distressed by the firing by the Israeli Defense Forces on a United Nations observer post in southern Lebanon on July 25," said the statement passed unanimously by the 15 nation council after two days of stormy negotiations.
Bombed UN post (Photo: Reuters)
Diplomats said the United States had refused to agree to any statement which criticized Israel or condemned the attack, which killed peacekeepers from Austria, Canada, China and Finland.
China had sought a stronger motion which condemned the attack.
Large chunks of the Chinese draft text were taken out in order to get the "presidential statement" passed.
A paragraph which said "the Security Council condemns any deliberate attack against UN personnel" was taken out, along with a phrase which would have called on the United Nations to be involved in the inquiry.
The Security Council called upon Israel "to conduct a comprehensive inquiry into this incident, taking into account any relevant material from United Nations authorities, and to make the results public as soon as possible."
Israeli ambassador: Very fair and balanced statement'
The statement said: "The Security Council is deeply concerned about safety and security of UN personnel and in this regard stresses that Israel and all concerned parties must comply fully with their obligations, international humanitarian law related to the protection of UN and its associated personnel."
After the meeting, Israel's UN ambassador Dan Gillerman called the resolution "a very fair and balanced statement" and again expressed condolences for what he called "a tragic accident."
But the dispute over the statement still promises to have an impact on the Security Council's work in other key areas.
China's UN envoy Wang Guangya said before the vote that there would be a "negative impact" on the Security Council's work, particularly on the Iran nuclear dispute.
An important meeting scheduled for Thursday of the six major powers on a resolution against Iran's nuclear programme was postponed.
Wang made a veiled attack on the United States saying "the policy of one delegation" had frustrated Security Council efforts on Wednesday to pass a presidential statement.
"It is an attack on UN peacekeepers, so we feel that if the UN Security Council cannot send a strong political message supporting our guys on the ground, I think it will be very difficult for people to understand," Wang said before council members made their breakthrough accord on the statement.
"I think that if we get stuck on this particular issue for political considerations then definitely I think that people will feel frustrated and definitely I think it will affect smooth cooperation on other important issues," Wang said.
"This organization cannot discuss issues on a selective basis," he said.
"On this council, we have to cooperate with each other, but definitely this frustration will have its negative impact," said the envoy.
China: Attack apparently deliberate
China has taken a leading role in condemning Tuesday's attack in Lebanon. The Chinese government has demanded an apology from Israel and at the start of the Security Council talks distributed a draft statement calling the attack "apparently deliberate."
Other delegations also feel that the delay in passing a statement in support of UN peacekeepers was an embarrassment for the Security Council, diplomats said.
"What message are we sending the world if we can't even make a statement about the deaths of people who are meant to be protecting us, who were sent there by the Security Council," said another diplomat from one of the five permanent council members.
Wang said there was also frustration over the general UN Security Council inaction over Lebanon, more than two weeks after Israel launched hostilities against its neighbor.
"It is really unfortunate because I think there are many people who are calling for a stop to this conflict. Most of the people who are being killed on the ground are civilians. But unfortunately this council cannot do anything," said Wang.
France has proposed calling a meeting of UN Security Council foreign ministers next week to discuss a plan to end the conflict in Lebanon, unleashed by Israel on July 12 after two Israeli soldiers were kidnapped by the Hezbollah group.