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UN, Israeli officials to meet on Jenin mission

UN, Israeli officials to meet on Jenin mission

Following Secretary-General Kofi Annan's meeting with the Israeli Ambassador late on Tuesday, senior UN and Israeli officials will meet in New York tomorrow to discuss a UN fact-finding mission on recent events in the Jenin refugee camp, a spokesman for Mr. Annan announced today.

The decision to convene the session stemmed from yesterday's discussions between the Secretary-General and Israeli Ambassador Yehuda Lancry, who "sought clarification on the team's composition and scope of action, as well as other issues," spokesman Fred Eckhard told a press briefing at UN Headquarters. The spokesman stressed that the mission - initiated by the Secretary-General and welcomed by the Security Council - was expected to be in the region on Saturday.

"The Secretary-General said clearly that the mandate of the team was Security Council Resolution 1405 of 19 April," the spokesman said. "While he would not discuss his choice of team members, he did not rule out adding additional experts as might be deemed necessary."

During the meeting with the Israeli Ambassador, Mr. Annan had declined to discuss the composition of the team, Mr. Eckhard said in response to questions from the press. "[The Secretary-General] feels it was his team to name, he feels that the Israelis indicated to him in advance that they would cooperate with whatever team he named, and those are his people, and that's the end of the discussion," said the spokesman.

"There are three principals on the team, but [team leader Martti Ahtisaari] said let's not draw any divisive lines," Mr. Eckhard noted. "The Secretary-General said that any additional expertise that Mr. Ahtisaari feels he might need can be brought on board."

"If out of the discussions with the Israelis tomorrow there are recommendations that Mr. Ahtisaari thinks would be helpful for additional kinds of experts we'll bring them on board," he said. "The idea is to have all of the expertise we need to do a fair assessment."

Concerning tomorrow's meeting, the spokesman said that the "Israeli mission this morning said three individuals would participate; one each from the Defence Ministry, the Foreign Ministry and the Israeli Defence Forces." He added that the meeting would be chaired by the UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Kieran Prendergast, and attended by senior officials from the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Office of Legal Affairs.