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UN Cancels Fact-Finding Mission to Jenin - 2002-05-02

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, unable to win Israel's cooperation, has decided to abandon a mission to Jenin to investigate what happened during an Israeli assault on the refugee camp. The 20-member team waiting for about a week in Geneva will be disbanded Thursday.

Mr. Annan says he has made every effort to accommodate Israel's concerns about the fact-finding mission. But he says Israel's continuing objections have made it clear that the mission would not be able to start any time soon.

In a letter to the Security Council, The Secretary-General notes that time is a critical factor in the investigation. He says with the situation in Jenin changing by the day, it would be very difficult to establish the facts of the Israeli attack with any degree of certainty.

Undersecretary-General Kieran Prendergast briefed council diplomats in an exhaustive meeting behind closed doors. Mr. Prendergast indicated to reporters that the Secretary-General's decision to abort the Jenin mission is firm. Mr. Prendergast said, "He has come to that decision because he believes that the objections that Israel has to the deployment of the mission are fundamental objections, and therefore they are most unlikely to be overcome."

The Secretary-General believes he has gone as far as he could in his negotiations with Israel. A U.N. spokesman said the list of objections kept getting longer, and finally, Mr. Annan had to say "enough."

The Security Council authorized the mission April 19. Israel agreed initially, then backed away from it.

The United States had hoped to keep the Jenin mission alive at least while some progress was being made diplomatically in the Palestinian-Israeli crisis. Secretary-General Annan travels to Washington Thursday to meet with U.S., Russian and European officials to discuss Middle East peace efforts.