Secretary of State James A. Baker III said yesterday that the United States still supports a U.N. investigation of the treatment of Palestinians in Israel's occupied territories.

Baker reiterated U.S. support for an investigation in the West Bank and Gaza by representatives of the U.N. secretary-general. But he drew a distinction between a mission dispatched by the secretary-general and a mission sent by the U.N. Security Council.

"I hope that the Arab leadership and I hope that the government of Israel will both support the idea of sending an investigative mission from the secretary-general to the territories and report back," he said.

Baker's comments on CBS News's "Face the Nation" program came the day after the United States blocked an attempt by the Security Council to send a mission to the occupied territories.

Arab leaders were angered by the U.S. move at the Security Council meeting in Geneva and claimed Baker had reneged on a promise.

The United States objected to the investigative mission after Israel refused to accept any team sent by the Security Council.

Baker said Arabs "must have misunderstood" when they thought he backed a Security Council investigative team.

Arab countries this week called for U.N. protection of Palestinians living in the occupied territories. At least 15 Palestinians have been killed in clashes with Israeli defense forces in the past week, sparked by the killing of seven Palestinian workers by an apparently deranged Israeli.