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UN Security Council Deadlocked Over Israeli Rejection of Jenin Mission - 2002-05-03

The U.N. Security Council is gridlocked over how to respond to Israel's rejection of a U.N. fact-finding mission to the Jenin refugee camp. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has announced his intention to abort the mission after failing to persuade the Israelis to grant access to the West Bank town.

The Security Council had been considering a letter to Secretary-General Kofi Annan expressing regret over the cancellation of the Jenin mission but still supporting Mr. Annan's decision. That idea was abandoned Thursday, after Arab diplomats demanded something stronger against Israel.

Palestinian representative Nasser al-Kidwa said "it is not serious enough. It does not reflect the gravity of the situation, and the fact that a member state of the United Nations flouted a Security Council resolution, and refused to cooperate with the Secretary-General of the United Nations on such an important matter as a fact-finding team on recent events in Jenin refugee camp."

The Security Council is in a political bind. Members feel they have to respond to the Secretary-General's notification that he was not able to do what the Council authorized in a resolution April 19. But Arab demands for another resolution that would at least in spirit, if not precise words, condemn Israeli intransigence on the Jenin matter, does not have sufficient support.

The Security Council might hold a public debate on Jenin late Friday, giving Arab diplomats at least an opportunity to express their anger at Israel. That may not be enough.

There is some talk the Arabs will decide to take the issue to the General Assembly, where no government has veto power and a resolution would likely be easily adopted. However, it would be tantamount to a public relations coup rather than effective action. Assembly resolutions, unlike those in the Security Council, are not legally binding.