UN chief backs plan to reopen debate on UN Gaza report

UNITED NATIONS - UN chief Ban Ki-moon backs a Palestinian proposal to reopen debate in the Human Rights Council on a contentious UN report condemning Israel's conduct during the Gaza war, his spokeswoman said Monday.
Michele Montas said Ban discussed the issue during a telephone conversation with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas on Sunday.

UN chief backs plan to reopen debate on UN Gaza report
The UN report, released by an independent, international, fact-finding mission headed last month by former international war crimes prosecutor Richard Goldstone, accused Israel and Palestinian armed groups of committing war crimes during the war that erupted last December 27.
At the request of the Palestinians, the Geneva-based Human Rights Council (HRC) early this month put off until next March a vote on the Goldstone report.
Abbas said the Palestinians did so to gather maximum support for the report's recommendations, including a call for national probes by both Israel and the Palestinian side of the war crime allegations.
But following the outcry over the deferral, which sparked criticism from Palestinian civil society and across the Arab world, Abbas directed Palestinian representatives at the UN to work toward bringing the Goldstone report for an early vote at the HRC.
Montas said that during Sunday's telephone conversation with Abbas, the UN secretary general "expressed his support for President Abbas' engagement with member states on a proper process for the consideration of the Goldstone report."
She explained that this meant Ban favors a re-examination of the HRC's decision to potspone the vote till next March.
In Geneva, Palestinian representative Ibrahim Khraishi confirmed to AFP that he requested an emergency HRC meeting, which he said could take place Thursday or Friday.
Khraishi justified the Palestinian about-turn by "the Israeli aggression in Jerusalem."
Tensions over access to Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque compound exploded into violence on September 27 when Palestinians hurled rocks at a group of visitors they suspected were rightwing Jewish extremists.
Israeli police, who responded with stun grenades, said the group was made up of French tourists.
Friday, Israeli security forces clashed with stone-throwing Palestinians near the Al-Aqsa mosque compound -- the holiest place in Judaism and third-holiest in Islam -- as authorities limited access to the flashpoint site.
The Goldstone report directed the UN secretary general to bring its findings to the attention of the UN Security Council for follow-up action, which could be a referral to the International Criminal Court.
Last week, the UN Security Council agreed to bring forward from October 20 to Wednesday a scheduled regular debate on the Middle East, at which the findings of the Goldstone report will be raised.
Also Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that the Jewish state would not allow its citizens to be tried for alleged war crimes over the Gaza war and that adopting the Goldstone report endangered the stalled peace process.
The report accuses Israel of disporportionate of use of force and of failing to protect civilians during its three-week Gaza military offensive in response to rockets fired by Palestinian militants.
Some 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis died during the Israeli onslaught.
Meanwhile, Montas said that, in his conversation with Ban, Abbas took strong exception to comments made by UN special rapporteur Richard Falk.
Falk, an expert on the Palestinian territories, alleged that the ownership by Abbas' two sons in the al-Wataniya cellular phone company was behind their father's decision to agree to put off the UN vote on the Goldstone report.
The deferral sparked speculation that Israel was about to refuse to release badly-needed frequencies to run al-Wataniya Palestine, a mobile company which has invested over 700 million dollars in the Palestinian areas, unless the UN vote was postponed.

Tuesday, October 13th 2009

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