The U.S. and its allies last night blocked a public U.N. Security Council debate on the Persian Gulf War and the extensive bombing of Iraq. Instead, the Security Council will bar the media from debate scheduled today. It will be only the fourth closed session in U.N. history.

The Bush administration's response yesterday to the civilian bombing deaths in Baghdad was presented in a series of closely coordinated battlefield, Pentagon, State Department and White House briefings, using a system set up right after the war began.

Dramatic televised images of the civilian casualties in Baghdad could affect public opinion about the war. In a Washington Post-ABC News poll before the bombing, most Americans expressed satisfaction with U.S. efforts to avoid civilian casualties.

The graphic television coverage underscored the difficulty facing Western journalists attempting to report Baghdad's side of the war despite blatant attempts at manipulation by the Iraqis, according to correspondents and their media employers.

Soviet envoy Yevgeny Primakov, who was in Baghdad during the bombing, said yesterday that his talks with Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein gave him "cause for hope." Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz will talk further with Soviet leaders in Moscow, Primakov added.