U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has called for the deployment of an international force to stem Israeli-Palestinian violence and create the climate needed to support political negotiations as he addressed the U.N. Human Rights Commission.

He said the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has become so serious that an international force must be sent in. "My own view is that the situation is so dangerous and the humanitarian and human rights situation so appalling that I think the proposition that a force should be sent in there to create a secure environment, as well as provide space for diplomatic and political negotiations, can no longer be deferred," he explained.

Mr. Annan did not specify what form the force would take and said he did not yet discuss the issue with Israel. But he said the numbers of people being killed on both sides necessitates a third-party stepping in.

The Palestinians have pushed several times for an international force to intervene to help end the violence, but Israel has repeatedly rejected the idea saying it would only agree to a limited American mission.

Mr. Annan stressed the level of violence no longer afforded the parties the opportunity to pick and choose as they please on third-party mediation.

"If they don't want it then let them take steps to stop the killing. Let them lead their people away from disaster and despair," he said. "But if they continue to do it and they are not able to stop, I think we as the international community have some obligations and we cannot step back, wring our hands and then a year or so later do a study and say what happened, where were we."

Mr. Annan also expressed concern that the violence could spread beyond Israel and the Palestinian territories to the Israeli-Lebanese border. He said he has been in contact with the leaders of Syria, Lebanon and Israel urging them to do everything to keep the situation under control.