They countered by putting aside the weaker presidential statement they had proposed Wednesday and introducing a rival resolution, council diplomats said. Details of the British-drafted text were not released.
The fast-moving events came on the 13th day of an Israeli offensive in Gaza and the third day of a high-level emergency meeting of the council demanded by Arab nations to try to halt the escalating conflict between Israel and Hamas.
Foreign ministers from key Arab nations, including Egypt and Saudi Arabia, came to UN headquarters along with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and British Foreign Secretary David Miliband to try to agree on council action.
After numerous meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday, the council was divided because the Arabs are insisting on a legally binding resolution demanding an immediate cease-fire and withdrawal of Israeli troops while the U.S., Britain and France wanted a weaker statement emphasizing that a durable cease-fire requires guarantees on reopening border crossings and preventing arms smuggling to Hamas.
When the Arab and Western ministers met again Thursday morning - supposedly to discuss the revised Libyan draft and the presidential statement - Miliband presented the British-drafted text, the diplomats said.
The Arab ministers then discussed the Western draft among themselves, the diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the consultations were private.
Before the talks began, Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa said the Arab Group would be pressing for a vote on Thursday, and he urged the Security Council to assume its responsibilities.
Libya's UN Ambassador Giadalla Ettalhi, the only Arab member of the council, said the revised Arab text should be more acceptable to many members of the Security Council because the amendments reflected their proposals.
Earlier Thursday, Israeli envoys traveled to Cairo for Egyptian-brokered talks on an initiative by the presidents of Egypt and France that calls for a temporary truce that would hopefully lead to a permanent cease-fire.
Negotiations would then take place with the European Union and the Palestinian Authority on how to open the Rafah crossing on the Egyptian-Gaza border, followed by reconciliation talks among Palestinian groups, Egypt's Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said Wednesday.
Egypt's UN ambassador has said representatives of Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas have agreed to meet separately with Egyptian officials in Cairo.
But Egypt's Gheit said there would be no meeting between Israel and Hamas, and the militant group has not confirmed it would be coming to Egypt.
Hamas, which wrested control of the Gaza Strip from the Palestinian Authority in June 2007 and is considered a terrorist organization by the United States and Israel, has said it has major reservations about the Egyptian proposal and would give a clear position later.
In a possible sign Hamas was unwilling to compromise yet, a senior Hamas
official in Syria, Mohammed Nazzal, told Syrian TV Thursday that the militant Islamic group would never surrender and vowed to fight house to house against the Israeli military in Gaza.
Amos Gilad, a senior Israeli Defense Ministry official, and Shalom Turjeman, a top aide to Israel's prime minister, arrived in Cairo Thursday morning. The official Egyptian news agency MENA said the delegates will discuss the basic details on how to implement the initiative - but not other details were immediately available.
Israel's government has said it viewed the proposal positively but stopped short of acceptance.
International efforts to broker a cease-fire have gained steam with
Palestinian casualties rising in Gaza. The death toll reached 699 Palestinians on Thursday, according to Palestinian medical officials. Eleven Israelis have died since the offensive began Dec. 27.
Speaking in Madrid, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that the Egyptian-French initiative is a positive element in the peace process stressing we support it and hope that it succeeds in achieving its goals.
Abbas' faction, which controls the West Bank, has little sway in the coastal strip.
Abbas' Palestinian Authority representative in Cairo, Nabil Amr, said Abbas will meet with Egypt's intelligence chief in Cairo on Friday and then with President Hosni Mubarak on Saturday.
The Egyptian-French proposal aims to achieve a lasting halt to both rocket fire into Israel and to arms-trafficking for Hamas and a pullout of Israeli troops, French Foreign Ministry spokesman Eric Chevallier said Thursday.