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Monday, 22 April, 2002, 17:28 GMT 18:28 UK
Martti Ahtisaari: Trusted diplomat
Martti Ahtisaari who is due in Jenin
Mr Ahtisaari helped mastermind peace in Kosovo
BBC News Online profiles former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari who has been chosen to head a UN fact-finding mission into the Israeli operation at the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank.

Martti Ahtisaari has earned a worldwide reputation as a diplomat able to handle the thorniest of problems.

Most recently he served as an independent arms inspector in Northern Ireland last year.

The year before, he was a European Union envoy sent to assess Austria's human rights record in the row between Vienna and the EU over the far-right Freedom's Party's entry into a coalition government.

Mr Ahtisaari is considered to have been instrumental in bringing an end to the conflict in Kosovo in June 1999 after he was sent by the European Union as a mediator.

Alliance

Finland is not a member of Nato and had established ties to Moscow under Mr Ahtisaari - qualities that senior European leaders recognised as vital for negotiating with President Slobodan Milosevic.

Mr Ahtisaari's peace mission to Belgrade with Moscow's special envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin resulted in Belgrade's acceptance of a peace plan to end the Kosovo conflict.

European envoy

Born in 1937, Mr Ahtisaari gained his reputation as an international envoy after a long career in diplomacy with the United Nations.

He headed the UN's monitoring of Namibia's transition to independence in 1990.

Then, in 1993, he was one of a number of European envoys who tried to prevent the former Yugoslavia sliding further into ethnic conflict.

Mr Ahtisaari was elected president of Finland a year later on a social democrat ticket.

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See also:

22 Apr 02 | Middle East
UN names Jenin inquiry team
21 Apr 02 | Middle East
Palestinians flee Bethlehem church
20 Apr 02 | Middle East
Tragedy at Jenin, says US envoy
19 Apr 02 | Middle East
Rescue teams join Jenin search
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