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It’s ‘very urgent’ that Jenin fact-finding team goes in, Annan says

It’s ‘very urgent’ that Jenin fact-finding team goes in, Annan says

Kofi Annan speaking to the press
While expressing hope that the United Nations and Israel could resolve differences over a fact-finding mission to Jenin, Secretary-General Kofi Annan today stressed the need for the UN team to travel to its destination without delay.

“I think at this stage, it is very urgent that we go in, find out what happened, and put all the rumours and the accusations behind us,” Mr. Annan told CNN this morning as he entered UN Headquarters.

The Secretary-General characterized last week’s talks between senior UN and Israeli officials as “constructive.”

“We’ve clarified some of the issues of concern to [the Israeli delegation] and I did give a letter to the Israeli Government and also to the Palestinian Authority indicating precisely how the team is going to approach its work,” Mr. Annan told CNN this morning as he entered UN Headquarters.

“I expect we should be able to work out our differences,” the Secretary-General added.

A UN spokesman later told reporters that the UN was “awaiting the Israeli response” to the Secretary-General’s letter, which had been sent on Saturday, with copies shared with the Security Council.

Responding to questions from the press, Spokesman Fred Eckhard said the Secretary-General’s letters clarified the team’s work and made it “very clear who the three principal members of the team are.” The letters invited the Israelis and Palestinians to present any relevant information to the team.

“The whole purpose of the letter that was sent on Saturday was to lay down in writing very clearly what the team is to do, and now that that is in black and white, we’re expecting a reply from the Israelis,” the spokesman added.

On the Secretary-General’s reaction to the delays in the team’s dispatch to the Middle East, the spokesman said Mr. Annan “had a certain amount of understanding about the heaviness of the agenda” Israel faced this weekend, including the dispute over Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat’s confinement. “But he did say it’s urgent that we go in, so I think he’s hoping that with a positive response from Israel in writing today the team can get on its way,” Mr. Eckhard added.

Asked why the UN believed the issue would be resolved, the spokesman said the optimism stemmed from the “relatively good exchange” during the UN-Israeli talks last week. “We don’t see any insurmountable obstacles,” Mr. Eckhard said, “but it’s up to Israel to reply.”