Annan alarmed by rise in Middle East violence

Annan alarmed by rise in Middle East violence

Expressing shock at Sunday's suicide bombings in Jerusalem and Haifa, United Nations Secretary-General "unequivocally" condemned the terrorist acts and appealed to the Palestinian Authority to take urgent steps against the plotters.

"No cause and no motive can ever justify the deliberate murder of innocent civilians," said a statement issued by the Secretary-General's spokesman within hours of the bombings, which took a heavy toll of human life.

"The Secretary-General calls on the Palestinian Authority to take immediate and decisive action to arrest and bring to justice those responsible for these and earlier acts of terrorism," the statement said, stressing that the attacks undermined efforts on all sides for peace and justice.

"Even at this very difficult time, the Secretary-General cannot overemphasize the importance of persevering with the search for a peaceful settlement based on Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) and the principle of land for peace," said the statement.

Mr. Annan also conveyed his condolences to the families of all those who were killed or injured in the bomb attacks, and to the Government of Israel.

Responding today to questions about the developments since the bombings, a spokesman for the Secretary-General said Mr. Annan was "aware that the Palestinian Authority has requested a grace period in order to accomplish the task of arresting elements responsible for the terrorist attacks over the weekend."

"He's concerned about reports regarding an Israeli helicopter gunship attack against targets very close to the office of [Palestinian Authority] President [Yasser] Arafat in Gaza," said spokesman Fred Eckhard. "He also remains extremely concerned at the alarming intensification of the cycle of violence, and urges all sides to exercise restraint in order not to aggravate the already extremely volatile situation."

The spokesman reiterated Mr. Annan's position that "the need for persevering with the search for a peaceful settlement cannot be overemphasized."