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Awaiting formal reply on Jenin, Annan says UN did all to meet Israeli concerns

Awaiting formal reply on Jenin, Annan says UN did all to meet Israeli concerns

Kofi Annan speaking to press
Amid press reports that Israel would reject a United Nations fact-finding team to the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he was awaiting formal notification of Israel’s decision and stressed that the UN had done everything to meet the country’s concerns.

“My understanding was that Foreign Minister [Shimon] Peres was going to write to me after the Cabinet decision,” Mr. Annan told reporters as he entered UN New York Headquarters this morning. “I haven’t received it yet, but I have also heard the press reports that they may not cooperate or need further questions answered, so I’ll wait for formal notification from the authorities.”

The Secretary-General underscored that Israeli officials had indicated to him that they had no problem with the team going in, even though they had raised the issue of military qualifications.

“It was Mr. Peres who told me that ‘we have nothing to hide’ and the team was welcome,” the Secretary-General said. “Not just Mr. Peres, but also the Defense Minister [Binyamin] Ben Eliezer told me: ‘You are welcome. We have nothing to hide.’ And of course, they raised some questions as to whether the team had enough military expertise and people with intelligence and counter-terrorism expertise. And we’ve dealt with that.”

“We’ve really done everything to meet them, to deal with their concerns, and I think we’ve been very forthcoming,” said Mr. Annan. “Obviously the decision is theirs.”

Asked how long he could keep the team waiting, the Secretary-General noted that the members could not wait indefinitely, but emphasized that they had not been “twiddling their fingers.” The members, he noted, had been conducting talks and receiving dispositions “so, in a way, they have already started their work in Geneva," pending their arrival in the Middle East.”