msnbc.com news services
updated 7/13/2006 5:31:03 PM ET 2006-07-13T21:31:03

The United States cast the first U.N. Security Council veto in nearly two years Thursday, blocking an Arab-backed resolution that would have demanded Israel halt its military offensive in the Gaza Strip.

The draft, sponsored by Qatar, accused Israel of a "disproportionate use of force" that endangered Palestinian civilians, and demanded Israel withdraw its troops from Gaza.

The United States was alone in voting against the resolution. Ten of the 15 Security Council nations voted in favor, and four abstained.

The draft had been reworked repeatedly to address concerns that it was too biased against Israel. Language was added calling for the release of an abducted soldier and urging the Palestinians to stop firing rockets at Israel.

Nonetheless, U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said it was still unacceptable because it had been overtaken by events in the region — including the capture of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah militants on Wednesday — and was "unbalanced."

"It placed demands on one side in the Middle East conflict but not the other," Bolton said. "This draft resolution would have exacerbated tensions in the region."

Israel launched the operation two weeks ago in response to the June 25 capture of an Israeli soldier, 19-year-old Cpl. Gilad Shalit.

‘Dire humanitarian situation’
The resolution called on Israel and the Palestinians to "take immediate steps to create the necessary condition for the resumption of negotiation and restarting the peace process." It urged all parties to help alleviate the "dire humanitarian situation" faced by Palestinians.

The draft, sponsored by Qatar on behalf of Arab nations, also demanded Israel release the Palestinian officials it has arrested.

The United States had campaigned hard in the last several days for other nations on the 15-member council to either vote against the resolution or abstain. But those efforts failed and it had to cast the veto to keep the draft from being adopted.

The U.S. has periodically used its veto to block resolutions critical of Israel. The last council veto, in October 2004, was cast when the United States blocked a resolution condemning another Israeli operation in Gaza.

Eight of the last nine vetoes in the council have been cast by the United States. Of those, seven had to do with the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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