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UN Appeals for End to Mideast Violence - 2002-09-23

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan called on Israel and the Palestinians Monday to put an end to violence and re-commit themselves to a political settlement. Mr. Annan made the appeal during a Security Council meeting to discuss the Israeli siege of Ramallah.

Secretary-General Annan declared all use of force in the Palestinian-Israeli crisis is "morally repugnant."

He called on the Palestinians to, once and for all, renounce suicide bombings against the Israelis, calling this type of attack "a wicked instrument of terror." At the same time, Mr. Annan urged Israel to stop military actions in the occupied territories. He warned the siege of Yasir Arafat's Ramallah headquarters is likely to further destabilize the West Bank and Gaza, and suggested the Israeli government's tactics are hindering the peace process.

The secretary-general called on both sides to realize that violence or military might is not going to resolve their conflict.

"A policy based on forcing the other side to capitulate is a bankrupt policy," he said. "It is not working, and it will never work. In the end there will have to be a political settlement. Why not reach that end sooner rather than later? How many hundreds or thousands more have to die?"

Meanwhile, the Palestinian and Israeli envoys traded the usual charges in the Security Council. Israel's U.N. ambassador challenged the moral authority of Yasir Arafat and insisted that terrorism by the Palestinians is forcing Israel to take military action. Israel maintains Palestinian extremists are holed up in Mr. Arafat's compound.

The chief Palestinian delegate argued Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is not interested in a political settlement that would mean giving up land to the Palestinians.

Arab governments have submitted a resolution demanding a complete cessation of all acts of violence and the withdrawal of Israeli troops to positions held prior to the start of the Palestinian uprising in September 2000.