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U.N. Delays Jenin Mission Arrival

April 26, 2002

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UNITED NATIONS (AP) _ Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Friday agreed to a one-day delay in the arrival of a U.N. team to probe Israel’s military assault on the Jenin refugee camp.

Israel’s Foreign Minister Shimon Peres asked Annan for a Sunday night arrival so the Israeli Cabinet can discuss the mission Sunday morning, Undersecretary-General Kieran Prendergast said. The U.N. team had been scheduled to arrive Saturday.

Israel gave a green light to a fact-finding mission last Friday, saying it had ``nothing to hide.″ But after Annan announced the members of the team on Monday, Israel asked for a delay to seek changes in its composition and mandate.

Annan refused to delay the mission, saying it was expected in the Middle East by Saturday, but he agreed to an Israeli request for a delegation to come to New York to express its concerns. The delegation held talks with a U.N. team led by Prendergast on Thursday and Friday.

After insisting as late as Friday morning that there would be no delay, Annan changed his mind because of the Jewish Sabbath which begins at sundown on Friday.

Before announcing the delay, Prendergast briefed a closed Security Council meeting.

According to council diplomats, he said Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Yehuda Lancry told the U.N. officials that the Cabinet had ``informally agreed″ to let the mission proceed, but the formal approval could not take place until after the Sabbath which ends at sundown on Saturday.

``A formal decision will be taken on Sunday morning,″ Prendergast told reporters. ``As you know it’s now the Sabbath in Israel, and given the circumstances of the Sabbath, the secretary-general has agreed to a request by the foreign minister of Israel that the team should postpone its arrival until Sunday evening.″

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