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Friday, 12 April, 2002, 11:51 GMT 12:51 UK
UN chief wants international force
A Palestinian boy walks in front of tanks in Ramallah
Annan said violence was an "affront" to mankind's conscience
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has said that the situation in the Middle East has become so serious that the issue of sending international peacekeepers can no longer be ignored.

Wanton disregard for human rights and humanitarian law is something we cannot accept

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan
"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... can no longer be deferred," he said.

Mr Annan also stressed the importance of "providing space for diplomatic and political negotiations".

Speaking to journalists after a meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva, Mr Annan called the continuing violence in the Middle East "an affront to the conscience of mankind".

However he did not specify the type of force that should be sent in.

Humanitarian aid

Mr Annan also referred to the situation in the refugee camp in Jenin, saying he had been working with the UN and other humanitarian agencies to give assistance to all those trapped in such camps.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan
Annan: "Those responsible... face the verdict of history"

"Once we get access to the camps, I think we're all going to have a lot of work to do," he told French news agency AFP.

Earlier Mr Annan had told the Commission that the UN must learn its lesson from past failed missions and not stand aloof while the bloodshed continued.

"Wanton disregard for human rights and humanitarian law is something we cannot accept."

"We must let those responsible know that they face the verdict of history," he added.

However Mr Annan dismissed calls for him to mediate personally in the region, saying that he supported the efforts of US Secretary of Sate Colin Powell as mediator.

The issue of an international peacekeeping force has been raised several times before.

Palestinian leaders have on several occasions called for the implementation of a global peacekeeping force in the Middle East region, but Israelis are reluctant to comply, claiming they reserve the right to defend themselves.

See also:

12 Apr 02 | Middle East
Israel stalls over troop withdrawal
11 Apr 02 | Middle East
Israel steps up Palestinian arrests
08 Apr 02 | Middle East
UN Security Council's growing anger
06 Apr 02 | Middle East
Arab leaders push for UN meeting
05 Apr 02 | Middle East
UN to probe Mid-East 'rights abuses'
10 Apr 02 | Middle East
Jerusalem's deserted streets
11 Apr 02 | Middle East
Arafat 'not a partner for peace'
12 Apr 02 | Middle East
Netanyahu talks tough to US
27 Mar 02 | Middle East
Mid-East 'needs peacekeeping force'
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