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Annan urges Israel to withdraw from all areas under Palestinian authority

Annan urges Israel to withdraw from all areas under Palestinian authority

Concerned that Israel's actions in the Middle East are adding to mounting tensions in the region, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today urged the country to withdraw from areas under Palestinian authority.

A UN spokesman said in a statement that Mr. Annan was concerned that "such Israeli actions as the killing of the PFLP leader Abu Ali Mustafa, and the military incursion into the Palestinian village of Beit Jala, only further inflame the passions in the region and complicate the search for a way out of the present crisis."

The Secretary-General welcomed reports of an agreement between Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat regarding Beit Jala. Mr. Annan "considers the withdrawal from Beit Jala as an essential step to prevent further escalation," according to the statement.

Through the spokesman, the Secretary-General reiterated his condemnation of the practice of targeted and extra-judicial killing of Palestinian personalities, and urged Israel to withdraw its troops from all areas under Palestinian authority.

Concerning the general situation, the statement said Mr. Annan was "greatly dismayed by the further escalation of violence in recent days in the occupied Palestinian territory and in Israel." It noted that there have been a number of troubling incidents and developments involving further loss of life on both sides.

The Secretary-General appealed to all to exercise restraint and to stop the cycle of destructive violence, noting that "the growing tragic loss of life on both sides underlines the urgency of resuming a dialogue between the parties, as there is no alternative to a political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338."