UNITED NATIONS (AP) - The U.N. Security Council called early

Tuesday for an "impartial" investigation of Israel's deadly

commando raid on ships taking humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip

and condemned the "acts" that resulted in the loss of at least

nine lives.

After an emergency meeting and marathon negotiations that lasted

nearly 12 hours, the 15 council members finally agreed on a

presidential statement. It was weaker than what was initially

demanded by the Palestinians, Arabs and Turkey because of

objections by the United States, Israel's closest ally.

The Islamic nations had called for condemnation of Monday's

attack by Israeli forces on the flotilla "in the strongest terms"

and "an independent international investigation."

But the presidential statement that was finally agreed to and

read at a formal council meeting instead called for "a prompt,

impartial, credible and transparent investigation conforming to

international standards." And it only condemned "those acts"

that resulted in deaths, without naming Israel.

The long and difficult negotiations were conducted primarily by

the United States with Turkey and Lebanon, which are both

non-permanent council members.

Turkey, which had been a close Muslim ally of Israel, used some

of the harshest language against the Jewish state for launching the

raid against the flotilla, which included a Turkish ferry on which

nine pro-Palestinian activists were killed. Hundreds of activists -

many of them Turkish - were taken from the ships to Israel.

Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, whose country drafted

the initial presidential statement, called the Israeli raid

"banditry and piracy" on the high seas and "murder conducted by

a state."

Palestinian U.N. observer Riyad Mansour called it a "war

crime," and told an open Security Council meeting that "those

fleets, one after the other, will be coming until the unethical

blockade is put to an end and the suffering stops for our people."

Organizers of the six-ship Gaza aid flotilla stopped by the

Israelis said they would be sending two more ships to challenge the

blockade within the next few days.

While the Palestinians and Turks insisted that the activists on

the ships were delivering aid to impoverished Gazans suffering

under a three-year Israeli embargo, Israel's deputy U.N. ambassador

Daniel Carmon said "this flotilla was anything but a humanitarian

mission."

Some activists have "terrorist history" and its organizers

support radical Islamic groups such as Hamas, which controls Gaza

and refuses to recognize Israel's existence, he said.

Carmon defended the legality of Israel's blockade and the

boarding of the ships - which refused repeated calls to send their

cargo to Gaza through Israel - as "a preventive measure." He

called the results "tragic and unfortunate."

After the presidential statement was read, both sides

immediately disagreed on how the investigation would be conducted.

Mexico's U.N. Ambassador Claude Heller, who took over the

council presidency from Lebanon at midnight, said "impartial"

meant "independent" and that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has

the responsibility to organize the investigation. He also said it

was clear the condemnation referred to the "excessive force" by

the Israeli military.

The Palestinians' Mansour said almost all the members of the

Security Council support Heller's interpretation. He said the

Palestinians and Arabs would press the secretary-general to pursue

an independent investigation.

Yigal Palmor, a spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, said

he doubted the potential "objectivity" and independence of such a

U.N.-sponsored investigation.

"Considering the countries that support this option, we have

every reason to fear for its independence," Palmor said Tuesday on

French radio France Inter.

U.S. deputy ambassador Alejandro Wolff said Heller's

interpretation is "not our understanding" of the wording

regarding an investigation.

"The secretary-general called for a full investigation, and we

believe the Israelis are capable of conducting a full

investigation," he said. He added that as far as condemnation the

United States did not want to "prejudge any outcomes, or prejudge

any conclusions."

The presidential statement also "deeply regrets the loss of

life and injuries" and requests the immediate release of the ships

and civilians being held by Israel. It urges Israel to permit

consular access and allow countries to retrieve their dead and

wounded immediately.

The council also urged Israel "to ensure the delivery of

humanitarian assistance from the convoy to its destination" and

stressed that the situation in Gaza "is not sustainable."

Council members reiterated "their grave concern at the

humanitarian situation in Gaza and stress the need for sustained

and regular flow of goods and people to Gaza as well as unimpeded

provision and distribution of humanitarian assistance through

Gaza."

Mansour said this was "the clearest statement by the Security

Council on lifting the siege against the Gaza Strip."

While the Palestinians and their supporters would have liked a

stronger statement, Mansour praised the entire council, including

the U.S., for "acting in a responsible way" and allowing the

council to adopt a statement.

A presidential statement - read by the council president at a

formal meeting - must be approved by all 15 members and becomes

part of the Security Council's official record. But it is not as

strong as a council resolution which can demand that countries take

specific actions, impose sanctions and authorize military

operations.

On the broader Mideast, the statement adopted early Tuesday

expressed support for the U.S.-sponsored indirect peace talks

between Israel and the Palestinians.