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Israeli Ambassador Criticizes Kofi Annan's Reaction to Suicide Bombing - 2004-01-30

Israel has chastised United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, accusing him of failing to adequately condemn the latest suicide bombing in Jerusalem. Mr. Annan's spokesman rejected the criticism.

In a stinging rebuke, Israeli Ambassador Dan Gillerman said he was disappointed and dismayed by the secretary-general's tepid response to Thursday's suicide attack by a Palestinian Authority policeman in the heart of Jerusalem.

"No mention is made of the Israeli victims slaughtered in the bombing," he said. "No mention is made of the dozens of wounded still lying in hospital beds recovering from devastating injuries. In fact, no specific reference is made to the attack at all."

In his brief written statement on the suicide attack Thursday, Mr. Annan says "Once again violence and terror have claimed innocent lives in the Middle East. Once again, I condemn those who resort to such methods. Once again I appeal to Israelis and Palestinians alike to rise above feelings of anger and vengeance, however, natural, and devote their energies to negotiating a true and lasting peace."

Obviously angered by the statement, Ambassador Gillerman called a rare news conference Friday to denounce it. He said the secretary-general's words contrast with detailed reprimands his office issues when Israel acts to defend itself against terrorists.

The ambassador noted that Israel has great respect for Mr. Annan, and suggested he may be badly served by his staff, and by an organization with an anti-Israel bias.

"I truly believe his heart is in right place," he said. "However the U.N. is probably only as good as the sum of members, and in an organization where there is an automatic immoral majority against Israel, as is manifested time and time again, it is probably very difficult to maintain that impartiality all the time. I do believe, however, that Kofi Annan and his people have the capability and the duty to act much more forcefully against terrorism."

The Israeli ambassador expressed concern at what he called other troubling actions by the secretary-general and his staff. He pointed specifically to Mr. Annan's reluctance to assist in adopting a draft resolution on anti-Semitism, and the submission to the International Court of Justice of a dossier of selected documents which, he said, shows a bias that borders on the absurd.

Mr. Annan is traveling in Europe, but U.N. spokeswoman Marie Okabe stressed he stands by his statement on the suicide bombing. "The secretary-general has consistently and strongly condemned acts of terrorism from whatever quarter, including the suicide bombing in Israel yesterday," she said.

Ms. Okabe went on to said the secretary-general feels the world body's position is fair and balanced, and should be focused on peace.

Ambassador Gillerman also took issue Friday with the Security Council for its failure to adopt a resolution condemning the latest suicide attack in Jerusalem. He blamed Algeria, the only Arab member of the Council, for demanding that the resolution include a condemnation of the deaths of eight Palestinians Wednesday in an Israeli military operation.

Diplomats say the resolution failed to come to a vote Thursday during a three-hour closed-door Security Council session. Several other council members were reported to have sided with Algeria.