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Israel Asks UN to Postpone Jenin Fact-Finding Mission

Israel has asked United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan to postpone the dispatch of a fact-finding team to the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank until its mission is more clearly defined. The mission was authorized by the Security Council last Friday and was due to arrive in the Middle East at the end of this week.

Israel says it still plans to cooperate with the U.N. fact-finding mission, which was authorized to collect information about the Israeli attack on Jenin. But it wants the Secretary-General to reconsider the composition of the team to include anti-terrorism and military experts. Israel also wants the mission to confine its fact-finding to the Jenin camp and not stray into other areas.

Israel's U.N. ambassador Yehuda Lancry says that would make the mission more balanced. "We would like to make sure that the situation is clear for all parties that the focus will be the Jenin refugee camp, that this will include also the terrorist reality of this refugee camp. And that is the kind of question that we would like to clarify with the Secretary-General."

Israeli representatives will be arriving in New York Thursday for discussions with Secretary-General Annan.

Mr. Annan agreed to postpone the departure of the fact-finding team. But he says he expects the mission in place, which means in the Middle East, by this Saturday.

The three-member team assembled by Mr. Annan is being led by Martti Ahtisaari, the former president of Finland and an experienced U.N. trouble-shooter. The Secretary-General reportedly did not seek Israel's approval before he announced the team's composition on Monday.