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Annan: Mideast Situation 'Out of Hand' - 2002-03-06

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan says the situation in the Middle East has gotten "completely out of hand." A statement from Mr. Annan says he is appalled by the violence and by the increasingly aggressive rhetoric being displayed by both sides.

Kofi Annan says the Palestinian and Israeli leadership must ask themselves where this current escalation in violence will lead. In a strongly-worded statement, he said the leaders have a responsibility to lead and that history will judge them harshly should they fail to do so.

Mr. Annan said third parties, such as the United Nations, remain willing to help Israeli leader Ariel Sharon and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in any way needed. But he stressed that "the inspiration for peace and a settlement must come from them".

Release of the statement follows yet another escalation in the violence in the Middle East. And the latest attempt to bring the two sides to negotiations, an offer of a summit from Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, has not been acknowledged by either side.

In his statement, Mr. Annan said that responsibility to resume peace talks lies squarely with the Palestinian and Israeli leaders. Should these opportunities not be taken, he said, their own people would never absolve them for their failures.