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Warning that Middle East violence could spread, Annan urges parties to talk

Warning that Middle East violence could spread, Annan urges parties to talk

Warning that the current violence in the Middle East threatens to expand, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today repeated his call for talks between the parties.

"I am worried that if we do not contain the crisis it could spread," Mr. Annan said today in Austria during a press encounter held jointly with the country's Foreign Minister, Benita Ferrero-Waldner. He noted that tensions in the region had reached levels "not seen in many years."

Responding to questions, the Secretary-General also calle attention to the human toll exacted by the current "tragic" situation. "We have innocent people suffering and I think the international community has an obligation to do whatever it can to bring an end to this misery," he said.

Mr. Annan said the clashes underscored the need for dialogue. "In my judgement it is when the killing is going on, when you are living that tragedy, that you must talk," he said. "I do not see how you can bring the situation under control if the protagonists do not come around the table." In that regard, he expressed support for efforts by German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer to bring the parties together.

The press encounter followed a meeting between the Secretary-General and Foreign Minister Ferrero-Waldner, during which they discussed the crisis in the Middle East as well as other issues, including the situation in the Balkans and the fight against AIDS.

The Secretary-General began his day by meeting with Pino Arlacchi, the Director-General of the UN Office at Vienna and Executive Director of the Office of Drug Control and Crime Prevention.