GENEVA - The United Nations put off taking action Friday on a U.N. report that accuses both Israel and Palestinian militants of war crimes in Gaza, after U.S. pressure aimed at getting the peace process back on track.

The move is an early result of the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama's engagement in the Human Rights Council, which Washington joined in June.

The forum had been expected to adopt a resolution that would have condemned Israel's failure to cooperate with a U.N. war crimes investigation led by Richard Goldstone and forwarded his report to the Security Council.

Goldstone recommended that the Security Council refer the matter to the International Criminal Court if the two sides fail to conduct credible domestic investigations within six months.

But Pakistan, speaking for Arab, Islamic and African sponsors of a resolution, formally asked the forum to defer action on their text until the next regular session in March.

This would give more time for a broad-based and comprehensive consideration of the report, Pakistan's envoy, Zamir Akram, told the 47-member-state forum.

A diplomatic source said the move had followed intense lobbying by the United States, which is seeking to restart peace negotiations in the Middle East. There is agreement to defer given immense pressure from the United States, he told Reuters.

Hamas official Fawzi Barhoum accused Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of trying to rescue Israel from seeing its leaders, who launched a military offensive on the Gaza Strip in December-January, brought before international courts.

We insist that leaders of the occupation must be brought before international courts as war criminals and anyone who sought to prevent that from happening would be seen as partner in the crime, he said.


Abbas's spokesman Nabil Abu Rdainah noted the Goldstone report had not been retracted and was still on the Human Rights Council's agenda. It was only postponed.

A Palestinian official said the United States, European Union and Russia asked the Palestinian Authority for the postponement until the forum's next session in March.

Formal negotiations on Palestinian statehood have been suspended since the Gaza conflict.

The investigation by Goldstone, a former U.N. war crimes prosecutor, found that both the Israeli armed forces and Hamas militants committed war crimes during the December-January war.

A Palestinian rights group says 1,417 Palestinians, including 926 civilians, were killed in the Gaza war. Israel has said 709 Palestinian combatants were killed along with 295 civilians and 162 people whose status it was unable to clarify Israel lost 10 soldiers and 3 civilians in the offensive.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday the United Nations would deal a fatal blow to prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace if it endorsed the report -- which was more critical of Israel's military than of the Palestinians.

In a briefing to reporters after the Israeli cabinet met, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said Netanyahu's government was discussing the possibility of setting up an independent commission to look into the military's conduct of the Gaza war.

Khraishi, asked whether the Palestinians were prepared to investigate war allegations, replied: Everybody should respect its obligations. We should take responsibility.