Israeli, Palestinian Ambassadors to UN Meet Over International Force
Israeli and Palestinian ambassadors to the United Nations have met to discuss a proposal for an international force in the embattled Gaza Strip and West Bank, Israeli army radio reported Friday.
Israel has repeatedly rejected a Palestinian proposal for a UN protection force in the territories, which have been battered by more than seven weeks of violence that has claimed 237 mostly Palestinians.
The Palestinian representative to the United Nations, Nasser al-Kidwa had talks with Israeli ambassador Yehuda Lankri on Wednesday during an exceptional meeting initiated by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, the radio said.
The meeting took place in the offices of the Egyption delegation.
Al-Kidwa was quoted as saying a proposal to be submitted to the UN Security Council would take into account a suggestion by France that the force comprise unarmed observers.
The Palestinians are urging the Security Council to agree to the proposal by the end of next week, the radio said.
Earlier this week, Israeli government spokesman Moshe Fogel said a UN protection force was an attempt to dilute the US presence in the Middle East and to pave the way for international agencies to "put pressure on Israel."
But on Thursday, Israel appeared to soften its position on the issue, amid international criticism that its army has used excessive force against the Palestinians.
On the sidelines of a Euromed meeting in Marseille, Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben Ami raised the possibility of such a force, on the condition that a peace deal is struck first and that the United States plays a central role in it.
Ben Ami said France agreed that the United States would "keep the central role in this. Europe accepts the centrality of the US. They don't want an active role."
After a trip to the West Bank and Gaza Strip this week, the UN's top human rights official Mary Robinson called for international protection for Palestinians, saying there was "a disturbing pattern" to bullet wounds received by Palestinians shot by Israeli soldiers during clashes.
"There were a disproportionate number of injuries to the upper body, the head and many from live ammunition or rubber bullets fired at very close quarters," she said -- JERUSALEM (AFP)
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