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(photo credit: AP)
Syrian and Iranian diplomats traded barbs with Israel's UN ambassador on Tuesday, as a routine Security Council meeting on fighting terrorism degenerated into insults.
At a meeting aimed at assessing the progress and work of the Security Council's three anti-terror committees, Israel's UN Ambassador Dan Gillerman said that World War III had already begun and urged the former Allied forces from World War to act against the axis of terror, consisting of Iran, Syria, Hamas and Hizbullah.
He called the four entities the "greatest state sponsor of terrorism and the largest threat to international peace and security."
Gillerman also lashed out at the oft-repeated argument by Iran and many Arab states that a distinction must be made between terrorism and armed resistance movements - namely the Palestinians' fight against the Jewish state.
The ambassador said Israel has "an intimate awareness of the need to fight international terrorism," and stressed that there can be no justification for terrorism.
Syria responded that Israel was the one precipitating a third world war, saying that "If we examine the matter, we will find that Israel was behind the eruption of both World War I and World II."
Syrian diplomat Ahmed Alhariri countered that Damascus had taken a front-line role in the fight against terror and called on the Security Council to "avoid double standards in combating terrorism." Such a battle must be "based on strict legal criteria, and not flimsy political considerations," he said.
"In this regard, I must stress that Israel is duty bound to cease this cheap blackmail against the United Nations," said Alhariri. "All are aware that the source of terrorism in the region is Israel's continuing occupation of Arab lands, and the ejection of Palestinians from their land ... as well as continued aggression against Arabs and the denial of their fundamental rights."
Israel and the United States have routinely accused Syria and Iran of supporting terror, either by hosting and funding terrorist organizations such as Hizbullah, or by doing little to halt the flow of weapons and foreign fighters into Iraq - a nation grappling daily with sectarian killings, suicide bombings and other violence.
Gillerman also recalled that Iran's president has called for Israel's destruction "denies the Holocaust and is attempting to develop the nuclear capabilities to perpetrate the next one."
But Alhariri took aim at Israel's own alleged nuclear program, saying Gillerman failed to mention it while lambasting Syria and Iran. He argued that the Israeli ambassador "wants to mix the legitimate rights of those under occupation ... and those who commit terrorism."
"Perhaps he should read the Charter of the United Nations, which was drafted to save generations from the scourge of war and from foreign occupation," said Alhariri. "Those who are ignorant of such facts perhaps cannot read, and perhaps if they cannot read they ought not to be here at the United Nations."
Iran joined in, with diplomat Ahmad Sadeghi accusing Israel of being headed by war criminals and saying the country has suffered from a "lack of legitimacy" since its inception.
Sadeghi called on the United Nations to step up pressure on Tel Aviv to open up its nuclear facilities for inspection, mirroring the same kind of pressure his nation had been placed under by the international community.
Gillerman was quick to fire back, expressing his "appreciation, which I hope is shared by members of the Security Council, for the opportunity afforded to all of us to hear lectures about terrorism by two of the world's greatest experts on that subject."
In the meeting, chairmen of the council's committees on combating terrorism and weapons of mass destruction said concerns had been raised by various nations about the inclusion and removal of certain entities and individuals from committee sanctions lists. They said more effort needed to be exerted to streamline the process.