Sun, Feb 01, 2004 - Page 7 News List

Annan rebuked by Israel for `biased' words on terrorism

REUTERS , NEW YORK

Israel's UN ambassador on Friday launched a rare criticism of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan for issuing a "vague" statement on a Palestinian policeman who killed 10 Israelis in a suicide bombing.

Ambassador Dan Gillerman told a news conference that while he respected Annan's efforts toward a Middle East peace, the secretary-general's statement on Thursday signaled bias by failing to mention Israeli victims in the Jerusalem explosion that also wounded 50 people.

"Vague references to those who resort to violence and terror that have claimed innocent lives in the region are not sufficient," Gillerman said.

The ambassador's criticism was unusual as Israel has usually distinguished between Annan, who has spoken frankly against anti-Semitism, and the UN General Assembly, where Arab supporters have a majority.

Diplomats and UN officials could not remember Israel making such a direct attack against the UN or Annan himself or calling a special news conference to do so.

Saying Annan's statement made no specific reference to the Jerusalem attack, Gillerman said, "This is in distinct contrast to the tendency of the office of the secretary-general to issue statements of reprimand, with clear and specific detail, when Israel engages in defense measures against terrorist opera-tives."

Annan's statement said in part: "Once again violence and terror have claimed innocent lives in the Middle East. Once again I condemn those who resort to such methods."

Apparently anticipating Gillerman's news conference, Annan told reporters in Brussels, "As you know, I have always condemned without reservation suicide bombings that take innocent lives."

UN spokeswoman Marie Okabe said Annan's Middle East policy should be seen in light of all the statements he had issued on the subject and one statement did not "make a policy."

Gillerman acknowledged that Israel now was taking the offensive in delivering criticism and proposing resolutions and statements in the UN.

He said Israel had a hand in asking the US to prepare a Security Council statement condemning the Jerusalem attack by a Palestinian Authority policeman.

The council hit an impasse Thursday when Algeria and others argued that any statement should first denounce an Israeli raid that killed eight Palestinians in Gaza on Wednesday and then condemn the suicide bombing, diplomats said.

Gillerman said he had noticed a trend in Annan's secretariat over recent months. He singled out a requested General Assembly report on Israel's security barrier and said the secretary-general's dossier showed a "bias ... that borders on the absurd."

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