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Saturday, 27 April, 2002, 05:07 GMT 06:07 UK
Jenin mission delayed until Sunday
Man works on his house in Jenin
Palestinians are trying to rebuild their lives in Jenin
The United Nations has postponed until Sunday the arrival of a fact-finding mission into the Israeli military action against Palestinians at the Jenin refugee camp.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan made the announcement after talks with an Israeli delegation in New York to discuss Israel's objections to the mission's members and its mandate.

Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said that a delay until Sunday would give the Israeli cabinet the opportunity to discuss the mission before the team arrived.

There has been some progress but it's now time to quit it altogether, it's time to end this

George W Bush
BBC UN correspondent Greg Barrow says there is an acceptance that without the full co-operation of Israel and the Palestinian Authority that the mission could be undermined.

The mission was originally delayed after Israel demanded more counter-terrorism expertise on the mission, but Mr Annan had seemed prepared to go ahead on the grounds that these demands had been satisfied.

Two senior Irish policemen with anti-terrorist experience will assist Peter Fitzgerald, the security official already appointed.

The decision to delay the mission followed increasingly strong calls by US President George W Bush for Israel to end its incursions into West Bank towns.

"There has been some progress but it's now time to quit it altogether," he said. "It's time to end this."

Israeli forces continued their operation in the West Bank with a fresh incursion into the town of Qalqilya, but were reported to have left again on Friday evening.

They are now said to have taken up position around the town.

Palestinian surveys the wreckage of his home in Jenin
Palestinians say Israel went on the rampage, killing innocent people
Earlier, two Palestinians were wounded in a gunbattle near the besieged Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

However, retracting an earlier statement that it was prepared to use force, the Israeli army says its goal is to resolve the siege peacefully, to release the people inside arrest those who are wanted without harming the church.

In Ramallah, where Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat remains confined to his headquarters, Israeli troops reportedly fired tear gas on several hundred demonstrators demanding Mr Arafat's release.

'No reason for delay'

The office of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said the UN mission's brief was not compatible with the mandate of the Security Council and it asked for further discussions in New York.

Mr Annan initially resisted any further delay, but later agreed to a request for a postponement from Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres.

The UN has been insisting its mission should go ahead as planned this weekend, after it agreed to add two military experts to the team in response to an earlier Israeli request.

Israel said the team was unbalanced and its scope needed clarification before it can begin its work.

Israeli conditions

Israeli Government spokesman Avi Pazner said earlier that he expected the UN mission to investigate "terrorist activity" and guarantee immunity for Israeli soldiers.

Mourners carry the body if Islamic Jihad leader Sheikh Riad Bider, killed in Jenin
Israel says Jenin was a base for militants groups like Islamic Jihad
Israeli radio says the immunity is necessary to protect army personnel who testify to the UN team from any subsequent criminal prosecutions.

The radio said Israel wanted the UN mission to meet victims of Palestinian suicide attacks.

Israel is also pushing for the right for both sides to review the UN team's report before it is presented to Mr Annan, according to the radio.

The Israelis say their incursion in Jenin earlier in April was part of their military operation to destroy "terrorist cells".

The Palestinians have accused Israel of a massacre and allege war crimes were committed during the eight-day occupation of the camp.

The BBC's Chris Morris reports from Jenin
"With every day that passes, it will be harder for the UN to find the facts hidden in the rubble"
The BBC's Greg Barrow
"Getting co-operation is essential"
See also:

26 Apr 02 | Middle East
Fresh fighting in Bethlehem
25 Apr 02 | Middle East
Zeevi dispute unresolved
25 Apr 02 | Middle East
Israel's tactics become clearer
30 Mar 02 | Middle East
Inside Arafat's compound
24 Apr 02 | Middle East
Hamas bans children's 'sacrifices'
26 Apr 02 | Middle East
Jenin tactics under the spotlight
27 Apr 02 | Middle East
US mulls Saudi Mid-East plan
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