Islamic Delegation Asks UN to Protect Palestinians

Published November 28th, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

Senior officials representing the world's Muslims asked the Security Council on Monday to send UN troops to protect Palestinian civilians from Israeli forces. 

But Israel -- which can count on the United States to block any hostile proposal in the council -- reiterated its opposition to any international presence in the Palestinian territories. 

The Palestinian observer to the United Nations, Nasser Al-Kidwa, said on Friday that he would ask the council to pass a resolution this week calling for about 2,000 unarmed UN observers in the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem. 

A five-man delegation from the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) conferred in private with the 15 council members for two hours on a day when the death toll in the region rose to 290. 

The delegation was led by the foreign minister of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr Al-Thani, who later told reporters he had asked the council to "deploy force on the ground, to protect Palestinian civilians." 

He said there was "frustration in the Muslim world, among over one billion Muslims," at the slaughter which began two months ago. 

"We will lose peace and all hope of peace if there is no immediate and quick action by the international community," he said. 

The delegation included the foreign ministers of Iran, Malaysia, Morocco and Senegal. 

The council later met briefly with the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, Yehuda Lancry, who said he had "expressed our very well known position against an international force or an international presence." 

Israel was "convinced that only the bilateral track between Israel and the Palestinians" could achieve results, he said. 

He nevertheless hinted that Israel might later modify its stance in the light of discussions with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. 

The Security Council asked Annan on November 17 to solicit feedback from both sides of the conflict about a French proposal for a mobile force of unarmed military observers in the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem. 

UN sources said this might be attached to an international fact-finding commission led by former US senator George Mitchell, which is preparing to start work. 

Lancry said talks with Annan were "still in the exploratory phase" but said Annan was "a talented man and maybe something would emerge." 

But he qualified his remarks by saying "first we have to renew the bilateral track, to build some confidence measures." – UNITED NATIONS (AFP) 



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