September 24, 2008 - 8:00pm

Arab countries will ask for an urgent U.N. Security Council session to discuss Israeli settlement activity on land the Palestinians want for a future state, Arab foreign ministers said on Wednesday.

"There will be an Arab request for a Security Council meeting to discuss the issue of settlements ... as soon as possible, hopefully this week," Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit told reporters.

Aboul Gheit was speaking after a meeting of Arab foreign ministers on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

Palestinian negotiators have said Jewish settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank is undermining U.S.-sponsored efforts to achieve a peace accord.

Israel has said it plans to keep building in large settlement blocs it intends to keep under any future peace deal. Israeli officials say, meanwhile, the Palestinians have failed to meet their obligation to rein in militants.

Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa said that he and Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal will relay the request for the meeting to the head of the Security Council later on Wednesday or early Thursday.

"We will stress on the necessity to convene the (Security) Council even though there is an objection from one country," Moussa told reporters after the meeting. He did not name that country. The United States has often used its veto power to block anti-Israel resolutions.

The Saudi foreign minister said he hopes the meeting would be held next Friday at the latest.

According to a report by Israeli human rights group B'Tselem, Israeli authorities and settlers have seized large tracts of land in the West Bank for security zones around Jewish settlements beyond an Israeli-built barrier.

The barrier is deemed illegal by the World Court because it is being built in part on occupied territory, but Israel says it is necessary to keep Palestinian suicide bombers out.

The Palestinians condemned the project as a land grab and say settlement expansion could deny them a viable and contiguous state alongside Israel.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017