Annan orders probe into handling of videotape filmed by UN force in Lebanon

Annan orders probe into handling of videotape filmed by UN force in Lebanon

A United Nations spokesman confirmed today that Secretary-General Kofi Annan has ordered an internal investigation into the facts surrounding the handling of a videotape filmed last year by members of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) a few hours after an attack across the Blue Line in which three Israeli Defence Force soldiers had been taken captive by the Hizbollah.

The tape is being sought by the Israeli authorities, who believe it might shed light on the 7 October 2000 abduction. Last Friday, the UN said it would provide Israel and Lebanon with the opportunity to view the tape, with the faces of non-UN personnel obscured because of security considerations. On Monday, Israeli Ministry of Defence requested access to see an unedited version of the film.

Spokesman Fred Eckhard told the press at UN Headquarters in New York on Wednesday that the inquiry, to be conducted by UN Under-Secretary-General for Management Joseph Connor, would also look into the subsequent handling of the tape and exchanges with the Israeli Government.

"Mr. Connor has been asked to report to the Secretary-General as soon as possible," the spokesman said.

Explaining the motivation behind the probe, Mr. Eckhard said, "Frankly, the Organization was embarrassed, and its credibility was hurt, by what appears to be a mishandling of this event."

"The Secretary-General I think as a manager wants to have a review of the circumstances under which filming is done in peacekeeping missions and the way in which information is moved up the chain of command," he said. "Those are two of the things that we would expect this investigation to go into."

On who could view the tape, the spokesman said that Israel would decide the composition of its delegation, adding, "we would welcome it if members of the families were included in that delegation."

Asked about Israel's request for an unedited version of the tape, Mr. Eckhard said "our invitation to view the edited version of the tape is the Secretary-General's final offer."