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Israel Changes Mind – Let’s UN Inside West Bank

Israel Changes Mind – Let’s UN Inside West Bank

First published on…

By Selwyn Manning.

UN Secretary
General Koffi Annan and Martti Ahtisaari, the former
President of Finland.Israel has decided to allow members of a United Nations fact finding team into the West Bank – changing its mind after first refusing a UN humanitarian team entry to both Israel and the Occupied Palestinian territories.

Israeli authorities have pledged to cooperate with anyone United Nations Secretary General Koffi Annan dispatches to look into what happened in Jenin. Israel states that it has nothing to hide.

Listen to UN Radio's bulletin…

The United Nations security council had earlier requested that Israel provide access to Jenin refugee camp to members of the fact finding team and also a humanitarian team. That request was refused. Only yesterday the UN said: “The Israeli government has announced that it will not facilitate entry of the UN Human Rights mission into Israel and the Palestinian territories. The mission was to have been led by UN rights chief Mary Robinson, former anti-apartheid leader Cyril Rhamaposa and Felipe Gonzales.”

Fred Eckhard, the UN Secretary-General's Spokesman had released details of Israel's refusal. He said: "Following a telephone call with former Spanish foreign minister Felipe Gonzalez, who was to have gone on that mission and Israeli foreign minister, Shimon Peres, the members have learned that it will not be facilitated by the Israeli authorities."

The UN’s Koffi Annan had expressed concern over the "dire" humanitarian situation of the Palestinian civilians amid reports of destruction and an unknown number of deaths in the Jenin refugee camp. He had stressed the “urgent need” for access to the Palestinian civilian population.

Former President
of Finland, Martti Ahtisaari, will lead the UN fact finding
team to the West Bank.Members of the fact finding team will assemble in Europe this week before heading to the Middle East. It will be led by Martti Ahtisaari, the former President of Finland. The mission will develop accurate information regarding recent events at the Jenin refugee camp on the West Bank, Secretary-General Kofi Annan announced this early this morning New Zealand time.

The team also comprises former UN High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata and Cornelio Sommaruga, former President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). General Bill Nash of the United States will serve as Military Advisor while Thomas Peter Fitzgerald of Ireland will be the team's Police Advisor.

Over night Koffi Annan told a media conference in New York "The fact-finding team will start its work without delay. It will first assemble in Europe this week and then travel to the region as quickly as possible.

"I expect the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority to cooperate fully with the team and provide full and complete access to all sites, sources of information and individuals that the team will consider necessary to meet in the exercise of their functions," Annan said.

Asked about Israel's position, Annan said the country's authorities had pledged to cooperate with anyone he dispatched to look into what happened in Jenin, "and that they had nothing to hide."

Annan said it is unknown how long the team will be inside the West Bank: "We first have to go to Jenin and then determine what needs to be done and make an assessment of how long it will take. We would want to get the facts as quickly as possible," he said.

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© Spectator News Agency, Multimedia Investments Limited, 2002.

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