UNITED NATIONS (AP) – Israel’s military operations in the Gaza Strip and Palestinian attacks on Israelis have cost more than 200 lives and created a sense of “drift and foreboding” in the Middle East, a senior U.N. official said Friday.

Kieran Prendergast, undersecretary-general for political affairs, said “even to speak in terms of a peace process seems to put one at a distance from the present reality” in the region.

Prendergast said that 206 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed in the month since his previous report to the Security Council. He said the latest deaths raised the toll since the start of the Palestinian uprising in September 2000 to 3,839 Palestinians and 979 Israelis.

“It pains me to say, yet again, that there is little positive and much that is negative to report to the Security Council this month,” Prendergast said.

“Violence, not negotiation, continues to be the all-too-frequent mode of communication in the Middle East. There is a palpable sense of drift and foreboding; in the case of the occupied Palestinian territory, of drift towards chaos.”

Prendergast said neither side is fulfilling its obligations under the “road map” peace plan backed by the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia.

After the closed-door council meeting, Britain’s U.N. ambassador Emyr Jones Parry told journalists that there was “widespread concern in the council, dismay at the situation on the ground” and at the lack of progress towards peace.

Jones Parry said the council called for “unimpeded access” for all humanitarian organizations working in the area and negotiations based on the road map.

Prendergast said that Israel has not imposed a freeze on settlements in the West Bank and Gaza, nor dismantled settlement outposts built since March 2001, as called for under the road map. Sales of apartments in the occupied territories rose by 20 percent in the first seven months of the year, he added.

If conducted in cooperation with the Palestinian Authority, Israel’s plan to withdraw from Gaza “could be a useful step toward an end to Israeli occupation” and toward the goal of two states, Israel and a sovereign and independent Palestine, he said.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is planning to present his Gaza withdrawal plan to the Israeli parliament for a vote of approval on Tuesday.

The Palestinian Authority, Prendergast said, needs to take determined action to end violence and terrorism and to bring about reform of its security forces and other areas.

AP-ES-10-22-04 1637EDT

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