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Jenin team's mission delayed

Sommaruga's participation in the mission has caused controversy within the Israeli government

(Keystone Archive)

The United Nations team investigating events in Jenin will leave one day later than scheduled.

The UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, agreed to a request for a one-day delay from the Israeli foreign minister, Shimon Peres.

But the UN refused to give in to pressure from Israel to omit the former Red Cross chief, Cornelio Sommaruga, from the high-level mission to the Palestinian refugee camp.

The UN undersecretary-general for political affairs, Kieran Prendergast, said the request for the delay had been made to give the Israeli cabinet time to take a formal decision before the mission arrived.

Sommaruga, the former president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, joins the former Finnish president, Marrti Ahtisaari, and the former UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Sadako Ogata, on the trip. They are now scheduled to arrive on Sunday evening.

A number of military, security, legal and human rights experts are also making the trip.

Israeli dissension

Sommaruga's participation in the mission caused controversy within the Israeli government.

Hard line members of the cabinet, including Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, perceive the former ICRC chief to be anti-Israeli, a view dismissed by more moderate ministers. Earlier this week, several Israeli newspapers quoted government sources as saying they were opposed to Sommaruga's participation.

Sharon has been under pressure from hard line members of his cabinet, who are upset that he has agreed to the UN mission.

Opposition to Sommaruga's presence is in line with the Israeli prime minister's decision to sever contacts with the UN envoy to the Middle East, Terje Larsen, who had criticised the Israeli actions in Jenin and described the scenes there as "horrifying beyond belief".

swissinfo with agencies

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