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UN to Condemn Israel for Rejecting Jenin Investigation - 2002-05-07

The United Nations General Assembly, without the support of Washington, is poised to condemn Israel for rejecting a U.N. probe into the Israeli assault on the Jenin refugee camp. The assembly held an emergency meeting Tuesday at the request of Arab diplomats, after a politically deadlocked security council failed to censure the Jewish state last week.

The resolution condemns Israeli attacks on Jenin and other Palestinian cities, as well as Israel's refusal to cooperate with a U.N. investigative team. That team was disbanded last week, after the Israeli cabinet voted against it.

The resolution calls on Secretary-General Kofi Annan to submit a report anyway on the Jenin assault, which took place nearly six weeks ago, using all available information.

The United States opposed the resolution. U.S. ambassador John Negroponte called it one-sided and counter-productive to peace efforts in the region. He said harsh rhetoric against Israel does not serve Palestinian objectives. Mr. Negroponte said, "It undermines the credibility of their cause and deepens the divide between the Palestinians and a neighbor with whom, one day sooner or later, they will have to live in peace."

Israel reiterated its position that Israeli military actions are geared toward routing what it calls a terrorist network that has taken root in Palestinian areas.

But South Africa's ambassador, Dumisani Kumalo, speaking on behalf of the so-called non-aligned group of nations, rejected the Israeli argument, saying Israel is not above international law. "Combatting terrorism," he said, "does not license any state to disregard international laws and humanitarian norms. There can be no valid comparison drawn between the fight against international terrorism and the fighting against the legitimate struggle of the Palestinian people to end foreign occupation."

Assembly resolutions, unlike those in the Security Council, are not legally binding. But Arab diplomats, frustrated by the gridlock in the politically divided 15-member Council, said they could not simply let the Jenin issue slip off the international agenda.

A U.N. spokesman says the disbanded mission to Jenin theoretically could be recalled. But that would be a decision for Secretary-General Annan to make.

Mr. Annan is on record as saying he thinks it is too late for a probe because too much time has passed since the Israeli attack to get an accurate picture of what really happened.