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Annan Gives Full Backing To Helping Palestinians

Annan Gives Full Backing To Head Of UN Agency Helping Palestinians

Secretary-General Kofi Annan today gave his complete backing to the head of the United Nations agency helping Palestinian refugees after Israel's allegation that a rocket had been loaded into a UN ambulance was disproved.

"The Secretary-General reiterates his full confidence in the integrity and impartiality" of Peter Hansen, Commissioner-General of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), according to a statement issued by Mr. Annan's spokesman.

"He commends UNRWA personnel for their dedication in providing vital assistance under very difficult circumstances to the Palestinian refugee communities in the occupied Palestinian territory and the region."

The remarks follow Mr. Annan's review of the report by a UN investigation team that looked into allegations earlier this month that a rocket was loaded into an UNRWA ambulance.

The team concluded that the charges were unjustified as the object was in fact a folding stretcher of the type carried as normal equipment in UNRWA ambulances.

Following the team's visit, the Israeli Government admitted that it wrongly identified the stretcher as a Kassam rocket and has publicly withdrawn the allegations.

Spokesman Fred Eckhard said Mr. Annan acknowledged the cooperation of the Government of Israel with the UN team in dealing with the inquiry.

The Secretary-General "expects that any issues of this nature will be addressed through normal diplomatic channels," Mr. Eckhard added. "He welcomes the offer of the Israeli authorities to work towards strengthening their cooperation with the United Nations and UNRWA."

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