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Wednesday, 1 May, 2002, 08:42 GMT 09:42 UK
Annan to decide fate of Jenin inquiry
UN Under-Secretary General Kieran Prendergast emerges after briefing the Security Council
The Security Council was briefed on Tuesday
The United Nations appears poised to scrap plans for sending a fact-finding mission to the Palestinian refugee camp in Jenin in the face of Israeli objections.


The secretary general is minded to disband the team... I have so informed the council

Kieran Prendergast
UN under-secretary general
Secretary General Kofi Annan, speaking in New York, said he would make up his mind after a meeting of the Security Council on the issue on Wednesday - but one of his deputies said he was close to quashing the idea.

Mr Annan was speaking after more than week of hard talks with the Israeli Government about the mission which had been due to investigate allegations of war crimes by Israeli soldiers.

As the dispute over the Jenin inquiry continued, the Israeli military pulled out from Palestinian areas in the West Bank city of Hebron, saying it had made 150 arrests during the two-day offensive.

Palestinian officer being escorted to meet Israeli soldiers
Tuesday saw the release of 26 Palestinians in Bethlehem
In another development, the US secretary of state said he believed Israel's blockade of Yasser Arafat's Ramallah headquarters would be lifted in a matter of days.

The move is expected once arrangements are completed to transfer six Palestinians wanted by Israel from Mr Arafat's compound to a jail in nearby Jericho, under US and British supervision.

In Bethlehem, Israeli forces say a Palestinian terrorist was wounded in a shooting incident at the Church of the Nativity on Wednesday morning.

Two men in military fatigues emerged limping from the church shortly after the firing.

26 people were allowed to leave the church on Wednesay, which has been under siege for a month.

'Minded to disband'

The Israeli cabinet, which stands by its army's actions in the pursuit of Palestinian militants, continued to insist on Tuesday that the Jenin mission did not meet its criteria.

"A thorough, credible and balanced report would not be possible without the full co-operation of Israel," Mr Annan was quoted as saying in New York by the UN Under-Secretary General for Political Affairs, Kieran Prendergast.

Jenin
Israel: Says it killed 52 people, mainly gunmen, in pitched battles, losing 23 of its own soldiers
Palestinians: Say hundreds of civilians were massacred
British military expert: Believes Israel's casualty estimate closer to the truth but detects evidence of other war crimes

Mr Annan was said to be "minded to disband" the fact-finding team, which has been awaiting instructions in Geneva.

Senior Palestinians urged Mr Annan not to give in to "Israeli pressure" and to send the team "immediately".

Washington's ambassador to the UN, John Negroponte, proposed a compromise whereby the team would start its work in Geneva and continue "until such time as terms of reference could be worked out with Israel".

Mr Annan acknowledged that Washington and "other capitals" were working to save the mission but added that he would make his decision on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, there was more violence in Palestinian territories overnight.

Palestinian sources said five people, including a two-year-old girl, were killed by Israeli gunfire in the Gaza Strip.

Israel said it was returning fire after militants set off a roadside bomb.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Nick Hawton
"The teams set up to investigate now unlikely even to go"
The BBC's Stephen Gibbs
"The people of Jenin are not waiting for any fact finders"
See also:

29 Apr 02 | Middle East
Expert weighs up Jenin 'massacre'
30 Apr 02 | Middle East
Palestinians leave besieged church
29 Apr 02 | Middle East
Ramallah deal hinges on prisoners
30 Apr 02 | Middle East
Pope to send Mid-East envoy
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