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Middle East: Annan hails Mitchell panel's "fair and balanced" report on crisis

Middle East: Annan hails Mitchell panel's "fair and balanced" report on crisis

Secretary-General Kofi Annan has welcomed as "fair and balanced" the report by the Sharm el-Sheikh Fact Finding Committee that looked into the causes of the present crisis in the Middle East.

A spokesman for Mr. Annan said today in a statement that the Secretary-General wished to congratulate Senator George Mitchell, who had led the team, and the Committee's members for producing an objective analysis of the situation.

"The Secretary-General has written to President Bush to express his appreciation for the Committee's emphasis on the need for a halt all settlement activity; to support the call for maximum effort to control violence in all its forms; and to stress the economic and social crisis facing the Palestinian people," the statement said.

It added that Mr. Annan believed that "full implementation of the report's recommendations could, in conjunction with the Jordanian-Egyptian initiative, help build a bridge back to negotiations towards a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East on the basis of UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338."

In a related development, the Secretary-General has termed the use of force by Israel as "excessive." In an interview to Reuters Television in Brussels over the weekend, he also reiterated his belief that the current cycle of violence between the parties "is not going to get them anywhere." Mr. Annan said he remained hopeful that some of the informal contacts between both sides would lead, in time, to a ceasefire as well as an easing of the economic restrictions on the Palestinian people and eventual talks so the parties could "discuss their issues through dialogue and economic means."

Meanwhile, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Terje Roed-Larsen, visited today the site of the some of the recent Israeli attacks on Palestinian targets, including the Khan Yunis refugee camp.

Mr. Roed-Larsen told journalists there that he was extremely appalled at the level of violence, adding that the Israelis were using excessive force, which was "deliberate, unnecessary and completely provocative." He also noted the illegality of Israeli settlements under international law.

While in the camp, the envoy also met with the family of Himan Hiju, the four-month old Palestinian girl who was killed by Israeli shelling last week.