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UN Ponders Next Step After Israeli Rebuff on Jenin Probe - 2002-04-30

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan is considering disbanding the fact-finding mission to investigate the Israeli assault on the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank. The Israeli cabinet early Tuesday again rebuffed the mission, which the Security Council had authorized April 19.

Undersecretary-General Kieran Prendergast told the Security Council he is pessimistic about the mission of the U.N. team waiting in Geneva for access to the Jenin camp.

"The Council has called for the team to gather accurate information on the events in Jenin camp, he said. "But again, that becomes more difficult with every passing day. In the circumstances, and since it appears from today's cabinet statement by Israel that the difficulties in the way of deployment of the fact-finding team will not be resolved any time soon, the Secretary-General is minded to disband the team, and I have so informed the Council."

The Secretary-General has not made a final decision on the U.N. mission. Mr. Annan presented the Security Council with another option, which is to leave the U.N. team in Geneva, while U.N. officials continue negotiating with Israel to try to meet some of its concerns.

U.S. ambassador John Negroponte says whichever option the Secretary-General chooses, the United States will support his decision.

However, the U.S. ambassador urged reporters to view the disappointment over the Jenin mission in the broader context of what he called important progress being achieved diplomatically in the past two weeks.

"The alleviation of the siege in Ramallah, the on-going discussions in Bethlehem, and I understand there may even be some breaking developments at the moment," he said. "So I think it is important that you do not look at this one issue of the fact-finding mission in isolation from other developments that are occurring in the region."

Security Council diplomats, in general, have expressed frustration with the delays. Arab envoys would like the Council to adopt another resolution, putting more pressure on Israel to accept the fact-finding mission.

But some diplomats are wary of another vote, which Israel is likely to ignore. They say it would only add to the humiliation that Israel has already heaped on the United Nations, and the Secretary-General, in particular.