Annan: Israel should embrace Mideast force
 
By Reuters
April 18, 2002
 
UN - Fearing a fresh wave of Middle East violence, UN Secretary-
General Kofi Annan told the Security Council on Thursday it was in
Israel's interest to reverse course and accept a large armed
international force in Palestinian areas.

Israel has long opposed such a force, which the Palestinians want.
But Annan said the international community should pursue the option
rather than wait for the parties to arrive at this conclusion on
their own.

"A multinational force is essential to a gradual restoration of trust
between the two sides, which is so vital if further steps toward a
broad framework for a comprehensive, just and lasting peace are to be
taken," he said, according to his speaking notes.

Annan, who raised the issue last Friday in Geneva, presented his
arguments to the 15-member council for the first time on Thursday.
European diplomats said few nations would volunteer unless the U.S.
offered troops and Washington so far has declined such a venture.

But Annan said a multinational force, organized by one country rather
than the UN, would only succeed if Israelis and Palestinians
committed themselves to a peace process.

Otherwise, the force's position would soon become untenable if it
appeared to be freezing the political and territorial status quo.

"It could succeed only if Israelis saw it as part of a process
leading to long-term security and if Palestinians saw it as part of a
process leading to the end of occupation and the withdrawal of
Israeli settlements," he said.

Annan has long considered himself as a buffer between Israelis and
Palestinians and until recently was more conciliatory to the Israeli
position than his predecessors.