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Middle East: Annan urges continued international push to help resolve conflict

Middle East: Annan urges continued international push to help resolve conflict

Reiterating his support for current high-level United States diplomatic moves in the Middle East, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today urged continued international engagement in efforts to resolve the region's conflict.

"We are all awaiting with expectation the visit and the mission of Secretary of State [Colin] Powell," Mr. Annan told reporters at a press conference in Rome. "It is an extremely delicate and complicated mission," he said, noting that the fighting was still going on.

The Secretary-General called for continued international pressure "to get the parties to respect" these recent Security Council resolutions on the Middle East.

"The international community has finally come together and we are speaking with one voice, with one objective and one purpose," he said, noting that the joint statement issued on Wednesday by the diplomatic 'Quartet' on the Middle East - the US, UN, European Union and Russian Federation - had been supported by the Security Council.

"The parties, left to themselves, cannot resolve this conflict," the Secretary-General stressed. "We have seen what has happened in the last 18 months; they do need third-party assistance and I think we should press ahead and provide that assistance."

Mr. Annan's comments were made during a press conference - held in Rome and linked by video to New York - to mark a ratification event that paved the way for entry into force of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

Also today, the Secretary-General met separately with Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, the President of the Italian Senate, Marcello Pera, and the President of the Chamber of Deputies, Pier Fernando Casini.

In addition, Mr. Annan chaired the second day of the twice-yearly meeting of the heads of UN agencies, funds and programmes known as the Chief Executives Board.

According to a UN spokesman, during a Board retreat yesterday afternoon, participants discussed how the UN could strive to reach the goals set in 2000 by the General Assembly's Millennium Summit.