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Israel, U.N. Start Talks on Role of Jenin Mission

April 26, 2002|WILLIAM ORME | TIMES STAFF WRITER

UNITED NATIONS — Negotiations with Israel over a U.N. investigation into its three-week occupation of the Jenin refugee camp got underway here late Thursday and will resume today, U.N. officials said, as the fact-finding team prepares to leave for the Middle East.

The Israeli delegation, arriving for talks at the U.N. Secretariat, said it hoped to be able to resolve its concerns about the U.N. mission--and to avert another Security Council meeting on the issue.

Arab nations, with some European and Latin American support, submitted a draft resolution to the council demanding Israel's cooperation with the inquiry into the campaign in the West Bank camp but agreed to defer debate on the proposal until after the Israeli-U.N. talks here.

"They are down there hoping that this will fail," said an Israeli official, who asked not to be named.

But Nasser Kidwa, the Palestinian representative at the United Nations, said reports from U.N. officials indicated that they were "making good progress."

Israeli and U.N. officials would not comment on Thursday's discussions.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry had given its approval to the fact-finding mission last week but then requested its postponement or cancellation Tuesday. The team is scheduled to leave today for the region.

In talks Thursday, Secretary-General Kofi Annan agreed to add two military advisors to the fact-finding team--a key Israeli request--but said the U.N. will not postpone the probe, according to spokesman Fred Eckhard.

Israeli officials objected to some people named to the Jenin mission and to what they contend is its excessively broad mandate, which they said could be interpreted to include other West Bank military operations.

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