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Saturday, 4 May, 2002, 09:23 GMT 10:23 UK
Arabs press UN over Jenin 'massacre'
Palestinians in Jenin
Arabs are angry over the scrapping of the Jenin mission
Arab states are to call an emergency session of the United Nations General Assembly over claims that Israel massacred Palestinians at the Jenin refugee camp.

The move comes after an acrimonious debate in the UN Security Council over the disbanding of a fact-finding mission to the camp.

I would hope that the two peoples would wake up and focus on the political search for peace

Kofi Annan, UN secretary general
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said Israel and the Palestinians should "wake up" and seek a peaceful solution to the conflict.

In the West Bank town of Bethlehem on Saturday, a Palestinian man died after being shot inside the besieged Church of the Nativity.

Israeli military sources say the man was armed and was on their list of wanted men.

He was shot in the lung and died before arriving at hospital in an Israeli army ambulance.

The Church of the Nativity has been surrounded by Israeli troops since 2 April.

Israel has demanded the surrender or exile of about 30 armed Palestinians sheltering among some 150 police and civilians inside.

Israeli 'blackmail'

The UN Security Council held the marathon debate after its 15 permanent members failed to formulate a response to Mr Annan's decision to abandon the mission.

Israeli UN Ambassador Yehuda Lancry
Lancry said no massacre had taken place

The Palestinian's UN observer, Nasser al-Kidwa, told the council it had failed to give its backing to Mr Annan and had given in to Israeli "blackmailing".

Mr al-Kidwa said Arab states would take the issue to an emergency session of the 189-General Assembly, last convened in 1997.

The Associated Press news agency said it had obtained a draft resolution calling on Mr Annan to produce a report on events in Jenin within two weeks.

Arab delegates said they would ask the General Assembly to back a resolution accusing Israel of war crimes.

Most of the 38 speakers at the six-hour meeting denounced Israel for blocking the UN team.

"Israel's refusal to cooperate with the mission proves that its defence forces committed unspeakable atrocities against our people in the Jenin refugee camp," said Mr al-Kidwa.

Israel's UN ambassador Yehuda Lancry defended his country's decision not to allow the mission to proceed.

He said Israel had the right to ask that the mission only record facts and not draw conclusions, and to look into the "terrorist" infrastructure in the camp.

The Palestinians claim Israel slaughtered hundreds of civilians during a fierce nine-day battle in Jenin last month.

Israel has rejected the charge, saying about 50 mainly armed Palestinians died in the fighting.

Jail terms 'reviewed'

Earlier, the Palestinian cabinet, led by Yasser Arafat, met for the first time since Israel launched its offensive in the West Bank on 29 March.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat
Arafat chaired the Palestinian cabinet meeting

In a statement, the Palestinian leadership said it reaffirmed its "condemnation of all forms of terrorism".

But it said it would review the legal position of two of six Palestinians jailed in a deal which secured Mr Arafat's release from five months of confinement in Ramallah.

Ahmed Saadat, leader of the militant Palestinian PFLP movement, and Fuad Shubaki, accused by Israel of masterminding an illegal arms shipment, were jailed in Jericho on Wednesday.

Mr Saadat and Mr Shubaki were imprisoned along with four Palestinians convicted in a makeshift Palestinian court of murdering Israel's tourism minister.

The Palestinian minister of parliamentary affairs, Nabil Amr, told French news agency AFP he had resigned from the cabinet in a disagreement over the need to reshuffle the cabinet.

The BBC's Jonny Dymond
"The pressure grows for a regional conference"
See also:

03 May 02 | Middle East
Call for permanent Jenin presence
03 May 02 | Middle East
'No Jenin massacre' says rights group
02 May 02 | Middle East
UN abandons Jenin probe
29 Apr 02 | Middle East
Expert weighs up Jenin 'massacre'
20 Apr 02 | Middle East
In pictures: Return to Jenin
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