Annan condemns assassination of Israeli cabinet minister

Annan condemns assassination of Israeli cabinet minister

Secretary-General Kofi Annan
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan was "appalled" to learn of the assassination of an Israeli cabinet minister and has denounced the killing, his spokesman said today in New York.

Mr. Annan "utterly condemns this terrorist act and conveys his heartfelt condolences to [Rehavam] Zeevi's family and to the Government of Israel," said spokesman Fred Eckhard, adding that the Secretary-General has consistently condemned all acts of terrorism from whatever quarter.

"He welcomes President Yasser Arafat's condemnation of this despicable act and his promise to bring to justice those responsible," Mr. Eckhard said. "The Secretary-General appeals to all parties to exercise maximum restraint and urges them to resume a sustained dialogue. He continues to believe that peace and security can only be achieved through political negotiations, and that the parties should not be deflected from this path by terrorist acts."

Meanwhile, the Secretary-General's Special Coordinator for the Middle East peace process also condemned today's assassination, describing the killing as "utterly unacceptable" and a threat to Palestinian Authority President's efforts to control violence and ease the closures of Palestinian areas.

Echoing Mr. Annan's words, Terje Roed-Larsen said that the UN had repeatedly condemned targeted assassinations by any party, adding that the attack by the Palestinian Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine "threatened President Arafat's recent, serious efforts to uphold a ceasefire and control violence and jeopardized the recent progress made towards an end of the closures."

After meeting on Wednesday morning in Gaza with Mr. Arafat, Mr. Roed-Larsen said the Palestinian Authority President had condemned in the strongest possible terms the assassination of Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Zeevi. The UN envoy said Mr. Arafat told him that he had ordered the immediate search for, and arrest of, those responsible for the killing and instructed all security chiefs to take all necessary measures to prevent acts of violence and terrorism.

Mr. Roed-Larsen said it was his impression that Mr. Arafat regarded the assassination as extremely damaging to the Palestinian cause and national interest, and that those responsible "have brought condemnation on the Palestinians at a time when their critical national interest is to make their cause and their struggle understood within the new forces that are shaping international politics. President Arafat said he believed the Palestinian cause was best served by restraint and negotiations; by politics, not force."