The United Nations Security Council chamber echoed Monday with a barrage of resounding opposition to Israel's principle decision to deport Palestinian President Yasser Arafat.
Addressing a Security Council open debate Monday, UN special envoy for the Middle East Terje Roed-Larsen warned that without a major change in the situation on the ground, "a further deterioration, resulting in major bloodshed, seems inevitable."
He voiced his veiled opposition to the decision by the Israeli security cabinet to "remove" Arafat after a string of fresh Palestinian suicide bomb attacks inside Israel.
"Mr. Arafat is democratically elected and, as such, the legitimate leader of the Palestinians. He embodies Palestinian identity and national aspirations. He is now far from irrelevant."
Roed-Larsen's remarks were supported by an absolute majority of40 speakers at the open debate, among them 23 from non-council member states.
Permanent Observer for Palestine Nasser Al-Kidwa told the council that Israel's threat would mean the end of the PalestinianAuthority and signal the demise of any peace process between the two sides.
He called on the international community to take decisive and swift action to prevent the Israelis from carrying out such an "illegal and insane" act.
Al-Kidwa walked out of the council chamber after Israeli Ambassador to the UN Dan Gillerman took the floor to bombard Arafat.
Chinese Ambassador to the UN Wang Guangya said China opposed continued violence, targeted killings and Israel's decision to expel Arafat, who he described as a "duly elected" leader of the Palestinian people.
Wang asked the Israeli side to exercise caution to prevent further deterioration of the situation.
US Ambassador to the UN John Negroponte stressed that his country did not support "either elimination of Mr. Arafat or his forced exile" and it had cautioned the Israeli government against that.
German Ambassador Gunter Pleuger said the Israeli decision would not be helpful to the peace process. "On the contrary," he warned, "it added tension to the situation and made a solution more difficult."
The council debate was requested in a letter to Council President Emyr Jones Parry of Britain by Sudan on behalf of the Arab Group at the United Nations.
It also urged the council to take action on a draft resolution tabled by Syria to demand that Israel cease any threat to the safety of Arafat.
After the debate, Negroponte told reporters that the council would not vote on the draft and Syria was expected to present an amended version soon.