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UN General Assembly to Hold Special Holocaust Memorial Session

The U.N. General Assembly will hold a special session to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the liberation of World War II Nazi death camps.

It has never been done before, but the U.N. General Assembly Monday will hold a special session to mark a historic anniversary. The gathering will mark the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps in 1945.

A resolution asking for the special session was sponsored by the United States, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, Russia and the European Union. It was backed by 138 of the U.N. member states.

At a meeting with the sponsors Wednesday, Secretary-General Kofi Annan noted the role of the Nazi holocaust in the creation of the United Nations.

"The founding of this organization was a direct response to the holocaust. Our charter, and the words ‘untold sorrow’ were written as the world was learning the full horror of the death camps," said Mr. Annan.

Israeli ambassador Dan Gillerman said he does not know why there has never been a commemorative General Assembly session before, but said he was pleased this one had been called. In the past, Ambassador Gillerman has fiercely criticized the Assembly, accusing it of having an anti-Israeli bias. He said that bias might be changing.

"It is true I have often referred to the automatic immoral majority against Israel at the General Assembly,” he said. “That is something we are frustrated with, and in all my meetings with colleagues, we try to change it, and we do feel there is a change."

The General Assembly has in the past held numerous sessions and approved by overwhelming margins resolutions condemning Israeli actions in the Palestinian territories. Secretary-General Annan predicted that Monday's commemoration of holocaust victims would also be used to link Israel to the plight of the Palestinians.

"I think whether I like it or not it is linked in the minds of many people, and so it is reality that at the political and other levels we need to deal with, and I don't think this event in the General Assembly is going to necessarily de-link that issue in the minds of people," added Mr. Annan.

Several senior government officials are expected to attend the special one-day session, among them Israel's deputy prime minister and foreign minister.

In conjunction with the session, two exhibits will be on display in the U.N. building. One is a collection of photographs from the Auschwitz and Majdanek concentration camps, the other photos taken by youth groups who have visited what remains of the camps.