The United States accused Libya on Thursday of preventing the Security Council from condemning as a "terrorist attack" a deadly assault on a Jewish school in Jerusalem, but Tripoli called for "balanced action."
The United States had drafted a statement that was discussed at an emergency UN Security Council session called to debate an attack by a Palestinian gunman who killed at least eight people and wounded at least 10 more at an Israeli religious school.
"The members of the Security Council condemn in the strongest terms the terrorist attack that took place in Jerusalem March 6, 2008 which resulted in the death and injury of dozens of Israeli civilians," said the draft statement.
The US delegation had hoped the 15-nation council would unanimously support the text but Libya, backed by several other council members, prevented its adoption.
"We were not able to come to an agreement because the Libyan delegation with the support of one or two others did not want to condemn this act by itself but wanted to link it to other issues," US Ambassador to the United Nations Zalmay Khalilzad told reporters after the council meeting.
The Libyans wanted to include in the statement language condemning the recent Israeli incursions into Gaza, which have killed over 120 Palestinians, many of them civilians.
Khalilzad rejected that. He said killing students in a school was different from the unintentional killing of civilians.
Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin agreed, saying, "To see people walk into a religious school and open fire on the students there, that is really something which should give one pause, especially those who care about religion."
He said the attack by the Palestinian gunman was a "clear-cut individual act of terrorism."
Libyan, Israeli envoys trade insultsIsrael's enemy Libya is one of the 15 Security Council members. It was elected to the council last year, after Washington dropped its objections, and joined it in January.
Dan Gillerman, the ambassador of Israel, which is not on the council, had harsh words for Libya. He referred to it as the country responsible for the 1988 bombing of Pam Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, which killed some 270 people.
"Unfortunately, this is what happens when the Security Council is infiltrated by terrorists," he said, referring to the council's failure to adopt the US statement.
Libya's deputy ambassador, Ibrahim al-Dabbashi, dismissed Gillerman's attack. "We don't need a certificate of good conduct from the Israeli terrorist regime," he said.
He also said the council should not speak about the Jerusalem attack while ignoring the Gaza situation.
"If the council should take any action, it should be a balanced action and should condemn the killing in Gaza as well as the killing in Jerusalem," al-Dabbashi said.
Libya objected over the weekend to the use of the word "terrorism" to describe Palestinian rocket attacks against Israel in a draft council statement about the Gaza situation.
Israel has said the rocket attacks were the reason for the incursion and its decision in January to close all of its border crossings into Gaza. The Palestinian militant group Hamas seized control of Gaza in June 2007.