- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 4, 2002

From combined dispatches
Israeli's military campaign against the Palestinians yesterday triggered a global diplomatic offensive to halt the fighting, with the United Nations and European Union preparing to send new peace missions to the Middle East.
Under an Arab proposal, backed in principle by the steering bureau of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights in Geneva, envoys would travel to the West Bank and Gaza Strip, diplomats told Reuters news agency.
Commission Chairman Krzysztof Jakubowski, Poland's ambassador, is in line to head the mission, diplomats said.
The European Union also agreed to send a high-level delegation to the region as early as today.
"This is now the most dangerous conflict in the world," Peter Hain, British minister for Europe, said at a rare emergency meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg.
Mr. Hain said the ministers would announce a mission to seek a quick end to "this senseless hostility."
They were expected to send EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Pique to the region.
Israel has reoccupied a string of West Bank towns and villages since Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon sent tanks to Ramallah on Friday, two days after a suicide bombing killed 26 Israelis at the start of the Jewish Passover holiday.
Diplomats said the ministers would demand that Israel allow EU envoys to meet Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, whom Mr. Sharon has said he wants to isolate.
Spain said its prime minister, Jose Maria Aznar, had telephoned Mr. Sharon to offer to meet him and Mr. Arafat in Jerusalem.
The Spanish government office said in a statement that the Israeli leader had agreed to discuss such a visit at a Cabinet meeting slated for last night.
In a subtle policy shift, the White House indicated President Bush was open to discussing political dimensions of a peace deal before a cease-fire was implemented.
"There are two vital guidelines that the president is seeking to advance and they can work independently, they can work together," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer told reporters, referring to the security and political issues.
In New York, the U.N. Security Council met for the fourth time in six days, with Palestinian diplomats pushing for a fresh resolution and also demanding that the council enforce its weekend call for Israel to withdraw from Palestinian-ruled areas.
Nasser Kidwa, the Palestinian U.N. representative, sought to keep the heat on the 15-nation body to come down hard on Israel's military crackdown.
But Israeli Ambassador Yehuda Lancry made a counteroffer, saying that twinning the call for an Israeli withdrawal with an explicit appeal for an end to the Palestinian bombings could lead to a Middle East cease-fire.
"This would not only be a more fair and balanced position but could be the impetus needed to achieve a genuine cease-fire, begin the withdrawal of Israeli troops, and ultimately put both parties back on the path toward a process of dialogue and negotiations," he said.
The Palestinians, backed by Arab and nonaligned nations, want the council to adopt a resolution calling for the immediate implementation of the two other Middle East resolutions adopted in recent weeks.
In particular, a resolution approved during an emergency council session on Saturday called for an Israeli pullout from Palestinian cities including Ramallah, where Israeli tanks have pinned Mr. Arafat.
Mr. Kidwa, the Palestinian diplomat, said many council members felt it was too soon for another Middle East vote.
But "it can never be too early while suffering and human tragedy continues, while the siege continues," he said.


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