Annan considers dismantling fact-finding team following Israel refusal to cooperate
Faced with Israel's ban to allow a fact-finding team into the Jenin refugee camp, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan told the Security Council the team should be disbanded.
Annan's message was delivered to the council by under secretary general for political affairs Kieran Prendergast, who said "a thorough, credible and balanced report" into events at Jenin was impossible without Israel's full cooperation.
"Since it appears from today's cabinet statement by Israel that the difficulties in the way of deployment of the fact-finding team will not be resolved any time soon, the secretary general is minded to disband the team and I have so informed the council," Prendergast told reporters.
Annan's spokesman, Fred Eckhard, said any decision to disband the team would be taken by Annan.
But "he wanted to give the council a chance to express its view since they endorsed his initiative to set up the team," Eckhard said.
"Events on the ground are moving rapidly and with every passing day it becomes more difficult to determine what took place in Jenin," Prendergast said.
Prendergast recalled that the fact-finding team "was established on the basis of assurances of full Israeli cooperation."
Speaking to reporters as he arrived at UN headquarters, Annan said the world body had done everything to meet Israeli concerns about its composition and the terms of reference.
According to AFP, he recalled that Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres told him in a telephone call that Israel had nothing to hide.
"Not just Mr. Peres but also the defence minister, (Binyamin) Ben Eliezer, who told me we were welcome, we have nothing to hide," Annan said.
The US ambassador to the United Nations, John Negroponte, told reporters that dismantling the team was one of two options outlined by Prendergast.
The other would be for the team to begin its work in Geneva -- where it has been biding its time for five days -- "and continue until such time as terms of reference could be worked out with Israel," Negroponte said.
"We will respect the secretary general's decision," he added.
Israel decided Tuesday not to cooperate with the U.N. inquiry team until a list of demands has been met, defying a call by Annan to allow his team to begin working immediately.
The Israeli Cabinet said Israel had raised several issues with U.N. officials that it considered vital for holding a fair inquiry. "As long as these conditions have not been met, there is no possibility of beginning the inquiry," a Cabinet statement said.
Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said Tuesday he doubted the United Nations would agree to the Israeli conditions and expressed concern that it would now impose the inquiry on Israel.
"I think the immediate danger is that the Security Council will decide to establish this committee without taking into account Israel's opinion," Peres told Israel Army Radio, adding that he did not expect the United States to veto such a step, since Washington supports the inquiry.
Palestinians called on the United Nations to send the team immediately, claiming Israel is trying to cover up the killings of large numbers of civilians, something Israel strongly denies.
Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo said Israel's decision "is a clear indicator that the Israeli government committed war crimes in the Jenin refugee camp." Abed Rabbo demanded that the Security Council impose sanctions on Israel. (Albawaba.com)
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