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UN to examine Mideast report

world Updated: Oct 15, 2009 19:49 IST
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The UN Human Rights Council would hold a special session on Thursday on the Palestinian territories during which it was set to decide whether to endorse a controversial report accusing Israel and Hamas of war crimes.

The 47 state members of the council had already held a debate two weeks ago on the report by a fact-finding mission on the Israeli military offensive in the Hamas-governed Gaza Strip, and decided to postpone by six months a decision on its recommendations.

The delay mooted by the United States and European states was meant to help buy some time amid attempts by Washington to relaunch the Middle East peace process.

However, the Palestinian Authority reversed its stance in recent days and called for a new session of the Council with the backing of Egypt and Pakistan, non-aligned countries and the Organisation of Islamic Conference.

It comes a day after a UN Security Council debate in New York on the Middle East, during which the United Nations pressed Israel and the Palestinians to comply with the damning report, with US, British and French backing.

Israel has sharply criticised the fact-finding mission led by former international war crimes prosecutor Richard Goldstone, saying its mandate was biased, and warned that it could jeopardise peace talks.

The report recommends that its conclusions should be referred to the International Criminal Court prosecutor in The Hague, if Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas fail to carry out credible investigations within six months.

The Goldstone report also recommends the UN Security Council set up an independent team of experts to monitor and report on any investigations undertaken by Israel on the allegations.

The draft resolution that will be debated on Thursday seeks endorsement of "the recommendations contained in the report ... and calls upon all concerned parties including United Nations bodies, to ensure their implementation in accordance with their respective mandates."

Julie de Rivero, Geneva director at Human Rights Watch, urged the Council to endorse Goldstone's findings and "promote justice for the civilian victims on both sides."

"This will help break the pernicious impunity that has hindered efforts at peace," she added.

A diplomatic source said however that the draft resolution's reference to "United Nations bodies" to implement the Goldstone recommendations is a key hurdle.

Several countries, including EU states in the Council, Norway, India, Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Mexico, are opposed to bringing the report to the Security Council immediately.

A European diplomat said on the other hand that there was "no doubt that the text will be adopted."

He forecast a small majority, thereby weakening the political impact of the move.

The three-week Gaza war that erupted on 27 December 2008 left 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis dead.