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UN Will Disband Jenin Team Rather Than Yield To Israel
1 May 2002
Kofi Annan, the United Nations secretary general, signalled last night that he would be willing to disband the UN mission to investigate atrocities in Jenin rather than yield to Israeli pressure to change its make-up and mission.
The news, which came after Israel's security cabinet said it would refuse to co-operate until its terms were met, was greeted with anger behind the scenes by the Palestinian leadership, which believes Israel is attempting a cover-up.
Faced with Israel's continued refusal to budge on the issue, Mr Annan's office said he was "minded to disband" the team, which was approved by a UN Security Council resolution unanimously passed after the scale of the devastation in Jenin became known.
Israel has raised many objections to the team, which is led by the former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari. It has tried to persuade Mr Annan to agree that the team's report should draw no conclusions, and that its membership should be expanded to include military and counter-terrorism experts who would be more likely to be sympathetic to explanations offered by Israel's armed forces.
What was unclear was whether Mr Annan's words were a manoeuvre intended to satisfy protests from the Europeans and Arabs and add to the pressure on Israel, or whether he genuinely means to end the mission. Until now, the signs have been that he was committed to the mission. But his words were likely to add to suspicions among the Arabs and Palestinians that America has quietly agreed not to pressure Israel over the mission, if Mr Sharon's government agrees to a US and British initiative to end Yasser Arafat's confinement in Ramallah.
" Late last night, Israeli tank shells killed a two-year-old Palestinian girl in Rafah, near the Gaza Strip's border with Egypt, Palestinian witnesses said. Israel said it had fired a shell at a group of "terrorists".
Phil Reeves and Justin Huggler, Bethlehem