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Friday, 3 May, 2002, 22:05 GMT 23:05 UK
Call for permanent Jenin presence
Cornelio Sommaruga
Sommaruga: There is no information blackout on Jenin
The disbanded United Nations fact-finding mission to Jenin has written to Secretary General Kofi Annan calling for a constant international presence in Palestinian refugee camps.


I think that the truth is finally coming out

Cornelio Sommaruga, UN mission member
Meanwhile, the UN Security Council resumed discussions on formulating a response to Mr Annan's decision to cancel the mission, following objections from Israel over its composition and mandate.

Palestinian and Israeli diplomats traded charges at the meeting and Arab nations said they would ask the UN General Assembly to accuse Israel of war crimes.

Earlier, Israeli and Palestinian leaders responded positively to the latest US initiative to convene an international peace conference after 19 months of violence in the region.

But Israeli military operations in Palestinian-controlled areas of the West Bank continued on Friday and at least two Palestinians and an Israeli died.

Jenin probe

At the UN Security Council meeting, the Palestinian representative, Nasser al-Kidwa, said Israel's refusal to cooperate with the mission proved that "its defence forces committed unspeakable atrocities against our people in the Jenin refugee camp".

The Israeli representative, Yehuda Lancry, accused the Palestinians of deliberate misinformation.

"Had the international community known two weeks ago what is known today about the nature of the events in Jenin, it is doubtful that a fact-finding report would have been considered appropriate," he said.

The UN mission was to investigate Palestinian claims of a massacre at the Jenin refugee camp during the latest Israeli offensive.

Team member Cornelio Sommaruga - former head of the Red Cross - said he was very disappointed that the mission was cancelled, as he was convinced that it could have helped to ease tensions in the region.

Israeli soldiers pull out of Nablus
Two Palestinians and an Israeli were killed in Israel's raid of Nablus
"One of the points of our letter is that a more marked presence of appropriate international personnel in the Palestinian refugee camps, and in particular Jenin, could... contribute to protecting the civilian population of the two parties on the two sides," Mr Sommaruga told the Associated Press news agency.

But he said he was certain that what happened in Jenin could still be discovered.

"I think that the truth is finally coming out... human rights organisations have been on the spot in order to find out who has disappeared so that... I do not think that we are confronted with a blackout on information on what happened in Jenin," he told the BBC.

Rights report 'credible'

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, has called on Israel to investigate alleged violations of international humanitarian law.

United Nations Human Rights Commissioner Mary Robinson
Robinson has joined calls for an investigation into the events in Jenin
"We have a credible report of Human Rights Watch raising... concerns of breaches of international humanitarian law and disproportionate force against the civilian population in the Jenin refugee camp," she said.

The HRW report said there was no massacre, as the Palestinians had claimed, but it accused the Israeli army of committing war crimes.

It said at least 52 Palestinians had died at Jenin, 22 of them civilians.

Conference welcomed

A spokesman for Mr Sharon said the Israeli prime minister had long supported the idea of a conference at which the outline of a long-term political settlement could be drawn up.

Mr Sharon is reported to be formulating new proposals to discuss with US President George W Bush next week in Washington.

A Palestinian girl walks among the destruction in Jenin
There is disagreement on the number of people who were killed in Jenin
Mr Arafat - freed on Thursday from his Ramallah headquarters following a siege by Israeli forces - welcomed the conference proposal.

But he later added that he would consult Arab leaders before making a final decision on the conference - to be sponsored jointly by the US, the UN, the European Union and Russia.

In the latest violence in the region, two Palestinians, one of them a policeman, and an Israeli army officer were killed during a Friday morning raid by the Israelis on the West Bank town of Nablus.

And in Bethlehem, four Palestinian policemen who were said to be ill were allowed by Israel to leave the Church of the Nativity, which has been under siege for five weeks.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jonny Dymond
"The pressure grows for a regional conference"
See also:

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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