UN struggles to save face over Jenin

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The Independent Online

Kofi Annan is struggling to resolve a stand-off with Israel which threatens to wreck a fact-finding mission to Jenin and damage his credibility as UN secretary general.

The Security Council met again in emergency session last night after fresh calls on Israel to allow the mission to proceed, but put off any decision until it had heard from Israel later today.

The UN wants to investigate the Israeli attack on the Jenin refugee camp which ended on 11 April and left scores of civilians dead.

Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, said: "If you have nothing to hide, for Pete's sake get this fact-finding mission in as soon as possible. It is really important for Israel and Israel's reputation."

Mr Annan said: "I think at this stage, it is very urgent that we go in, find out what happened and put all the rumours and accusations behind us."

A UN spokesman said the fact-finding team remained in Geneva and would not depart without Israel's consent. Sources close to Mr Annan said the UN was still hoping for a positive reply from the Israelis. "They are stalling, but they have not given us a categorical denial of access," a senior source said. "I don't think we are going to rush to pull the plug on this mission because of these delays. If that is what Israel is hoping for, it isn't going to work."

Sources in London and New York firmly denied talk of a deal whereby Israel's agreement on releasing the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, from isolation would easepressure for the Jenin mission. "There is no quid pro quo involving the UN fact-finding mission," said a British official.