The United States voted with the rest of the United Nations Security Council Wednesday to assail Israel for refusing to cooperate with an investigation of the killing of 21 Palestinians in a clash with Israeli security forces two weeks ago. The vote, the second to criticize Israel in 12 days, had been postponed at the request of the United States so President Bush could appeal to Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir of Israel to reconsider his refusal to cooperate with a U.N. probe into the Oct. 8 killings. But Israel rejected the appeal on Wednesday.
Diplomats said the U.S. vote was again influenced by a desire to preserve international opposition to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's Aug. 2 seizure of Kuwait.
On Oct. 12, the Security Council unanimously approved a resolution condemning Israel for using excessive violence in suppressing demonstrators at Al Aksa Mosque in the Old City of Jerusalem.
The new resolution "deplores" Israel's refusal to receive an investigative team that Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar planned to send to Jerusalem. The mission was to report on the shooting and suggest ways to protect Palestinians against more violence.
The new resolution urges Israel to reconsider its refusal and "insists that it comply fully" with the Oct. 12 resolution, which authorized the investigation.
Finally, the new resolution instructs the secretary general to submit his report by the end of the month as planned, even though his team will not now be visiting Israel, and "affirms its determination to give full and expeditious consideration to the report."
This means that later this month the Security Council will begin discussing possible new ways that the United Nations could help protect Palestinians against Israeli mistreatment.
While irritation with the present Israeli government's policies may partly explain the Bush administration's endorsement of two anti-Israeli resolutions this month, diplomats believe another powerful factor is the need to preserve the unity of the moderate Arab coalition Washington has built up against the seizure of Kuwait by Iraq.
An American veto would seriously embarrass the Arab states by casting the United States in the role of Israel's protector and allow Hussein to present himself as the true ally of the Palestinians in their struggle for a homeland.
As a result, the Security Council's campaign to oust Iraq's forces from Kuwait is becoming linked with the Palestinian question in the minds of most council members. They accept the Arabs' contention that the council cannot preserve its credibility if it punishes Iraq's aggression while turning a blind eye to Israel's continued occupation of Arab lands 23 years after the 1967 war.
Iraq said to enlarge forces
Iraq has increased its forces in southern Iraq and Kuwait, amassing as many as 500,000 soldiers there as well as hundreds of anti-aircraft missiles and several thousand armored units, a senior Saudi official says.
Saying this represented an increase over forces monitored there a few weeks ago, the Saudi official also said Saudi Arabia has confirmed reports that armed Palestinians from the Abul Abbas organization have entered Kuwait and are helping Iraqi troops on internal security and border patrols.
The group, which carried out the Achille Lauro hijacking in 1985, is affiliated with the Palestine Liberation Organization and is now based in Iraq.
The most recent previous Saudi estimate of Iraqi troops in Kuwait and southern Iraq was about 350,000; the Pentagon's latest estimate is 430,000.
Embassy in Kuwait digs well
Two months after Iraq tried to close down the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait by cutting off its water supply, American diplomats demonstrated their defiance by washing their fleet of automobiles in a display of conspicuous consumption, the State Department said Wednesday.
Department spokeswoman Margaret Tutwiler said that U.S. Ambassador W. Nathaniel Howell telephoned Secretary of State James Baker Wednesday to relate the latest gesture by the embattled Americans who have held out in the harsh desert climate since Iraq ordered all foreign embassies in Kuwait to close by Aug. 24.
Howell reported that he and his staff recently dug a shallow well on the embassy grounds, tapping into a supply of brackish water too salty to drink but fine for washing.
Hussein ordered the embassies in Kuwait to close because Baghdad claims to have annexed the emirate, making it Iraq's 19th province. Although the Iraqi authorities did not try to force their way into any of the embassies, they surrounded each of them with troops and cut off supplies of water and food. Since the siege began, all Western nations but the United States, Britain and France have given up.
Briefly . . .
Congressional leaders said Wednesday that they would reserve the right to reconvene Congress in case the Bush administration decides to go to war against Iraq after the current congressional session ends.
NFL Films has begun regular shipments of videocassettes to Americans taking refuge at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. The Americans don't have access to newspapers but do have a video recorder.
_ Information from the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post and the Associated Press was used in this report.