UNITED NATIONS (AP) – Syrian and Iranian diplomats traded barbs with Israel’s U.N. ambassador on Tuesday, as a routine Security Council meeting on fighting terrorism degenerated into insults and accusations.

At a meeting aimed at assessing the progress of the Security Council’s three anti-terror committees, Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Dan Gillerman described Iran and Syria as part of an “axis of terror,” and said Iran was the “greatest state sponsor of terrorism and the largest threat to international peace and security.”

Gillerman also disputed 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.

Syrian diplomat Ahmed Alhariri countered that Damascus has taken a front-line role in the fight against terror and called on the Security Council to “avoid double standards in combating terrorism.”

“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,” Alhariri said.

Israel and the United States have routinely accused Syria and Iran of supporting terror, either by hosting and funding militant groups such as Hezbollah, or by doing little to halt the flow of weapons and foreign fighters into Iraq.

Washington also claims that Iran’s nuclear program is aimed at making nuclear weapons – not civilian nuclear power, as Tehran maintains.

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 said Gillerman should consider Israel’s own nuclear program before criticizing other countries for theirs.

“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,” Alhariri said. “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 U.N. to step up pressure on Tel Aviv to open up its nuclear facilities for inspection, mirroring the same kind of pressure his nation has received from the international community.

Israel, which is widely believed to have a nuclear program, refuses to acknowledge or deny it.

Gillerman was quick to fire back, drily expressing his “appreciation…for the opportunity…to hear lectures about terrorism by two of the world’s greatest experts on that subject.”

AP-ES-05-30-06 2054EDT

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.