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23 April 2002
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING
BY FRED ECKHARD
SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL OF THE UNITED NATIONS
UN HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK
Tuesday, April 23, 2002
UN FACT-FINDING TEAM TO MIDDLE EAST TO MEET IN GENEVA WEDNESDAY
Martti Ahtisaari, the head of the
fact finding team
which will head to the Middle East, met with Secretary-General Kofi Annan for the second time in as many days. Also present at the meeting was retired U.S. Gen. Bill Nash, who will serve as the team’s military advisor.
They reviewed a number of operational aspects of the mission. Ahtissari will leave for Geneva tonight and meet there on Wednesday with the rest of his team. The team is to arrive in the region later this week.
When asked to clarify Nash’s role in the team, Ahtisaari said he considered himself a very inclusive manager and did not want to consider any dividing lines within the team. In fact, Ahtisaari said, it would be more accurate to say his was a “20-man team” if all the assistants and experts were also counted.
Asked about additional members to the team, the Spokesman said it was expected that a legal adviser and medical adviser would be added. Asked about reports that some in Israel had criticized the team for lacking military experience, he underlined the importance of Gen. Nash’s role.
Asked about the Israeli Government’s response to the team, Eckhard noted that Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Defense Minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer had both recently called the Secretary-General and promised Israel would cooperate fully with the team. The Secretary-General, he said, was confident of Israel’s cooperation.
UNRWA CHIEF VISITS NABLUS; CONVOY BLOCKED FROM QALQILYA
The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (
) has protested to the Israeli military authorities after they prevented a UN convoy carrying humanitarian aid, including flour, sugar, rice and lentils, from leaving Nablus today for the West Bank city of Qalqilya.
UNRWA Commissioner-General Peter Hansen visited Nablus today following the lifting of the Israeli military curfew on the town, and witnessed the extensive destruction done to the Old City there. Hansen said that the situation in Nablus must not be forgotten, saying, “More than 80 bodies have been recovered from the recent fighting and the Israeli incursion has caused serious damage to both people and their property.”
Asked whether Israel had provided a reason for the blocking of the aid, the Spokesman said that to his knowledge, it had not.
UN MIDDLE EAST ENVOY VISITS LEBANON, SYRIA
UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East
, Terje Roed Larsen, held meetings this morning in Beirut with Lebanese President Emile Lahoud and Foreign Minister Mahmoud Hammoud, and discussed with them the deteriorating situation in the region. He welcomed the lull during the last week and strongly urged the Lebanese authorities to make all efforts to maintain it.
This afternoon, Larsen traveled to Damascus, Syria, and met there with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who was accompanied by his Foreign Minister, Farouk al-Sharaa. Larsen discussed with the President ways in which to halt the cycle of violence in the Middle East. He also briefed the President on the alarming humanitarian situation in the West Bank and answered questions about his recent experiences in the