Annan speaks to Sharon, Arafat urging leaders to 'stay the course' for peace

Annan speaks to Sharon, Arafat urging leaders to 'stay the course' for peace

Reiterating his strong condemnation of the deadly suicide bombing in Netanya, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan issued a statement today in Beirut saying he had just spoken to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat and urged the two leaders to “stay the course” and continue the quest for peace.

Reiterating his strong condemnation of the deadly suicide bombing in Netanya, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan issued a statement today in Beirut saying he had just spoken to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat and urged the two leaders to “stay the course” and continue the quest for peace.

The Secretary-General, who was in Lebanon for the Arab League Summit, said he believed “profoundly” in the right of both Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace and security. “The essential first step is an immediate ceasefire,” he stressed.

The Secretary-General recalled that at the Summit on Wednesday, he had condemned suicide bombings against Israeli civilians as “morally repugnant.”

“Last night's heartless and indiscriminate attack in Netanya was an especially appalling example of this phenomenon,” Mr. Annan said. “This is terrorism, and it greatly damages the Palestinian cause.”

Before leaving Beirut for New York, the Secretary-General this morning visited UN House, which he had inaugurated four years ago, to meet with UN staff.

In a meeting with the heads of UN agencies working in Lebanon, Mr. Annan urged them to realign their priorities to serve the goals set by the Millennium Summit and to press ahead with reform efforts, according to a UN spokesman.

Speaking to UN staff afterwards in a town hall meeting, the Secretary-General stressed, in reply to a question on the Middle East conflict, that in “the desperate search for peace we should never lose hope.”

“Don't get discouraged,” he said.