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PA's UN envoy delays debate on Gaza report

Oct. 2, 2009 4:06 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 3, 2009 5:15 P.M.)
Jerusalem/Ramallah - Ma'an - Palestine's envoy to Geneva, Ibrahim Khraisha, asked the Human Rights Council to delay debate over endorsing the UN-backed Goldstone report on Israel's Gaza assault, Ma'an can confirm.

The PA ambassador justified his decision on Friday by saying the request was intended to "gather consensus - and not under pressure from the United States."

Less than 24 hours after the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz broke the story late Thursday night, the Palestinian leadership contradicted itself repeatedly, with chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat denying reports as recently as Friday - the day of the vote - that his government's envoy would drop support for the UN draft.

Mustafa Al-Bargouthi, who heads the Palestinian National Initiative, told Ma'an that "there was a guaranteed majority in the Human Rights Council to condemn Israel... We denounce this postponement to issuing a resolution on Goldstone's report."

Meanwhile, the secretary-general of the Palestine People's party, Bassam As-Salhi, called for an urgent meeting of the PLO's Executive Committee "to discuss Khraisha's act," which As-Salhi called "dangerous."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had threatened on Thursday to end the peace process if the United Nations Human Rights Council votes in support of a report accusing it and Palestinian groups of war crimes in Gaza.

"Forwarding the decision of what is known as the Goldstone report, would strike a fatal blow to the peace process," Netanyahu said. "Israel will no longer be able to take additional steps and take risks for peace if its right to self-defense is denied."

Richard Goldstone, who was a prosecutor in war crimes tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, urged the 42-member state council to endorse his report. A supportive vote would have referred the report to the UN in New York, and possibly to the Security Council, which could have potentially sent it to the International Criminal Court.

Formal peace negotiations have been suspended since Israel began its three-week assault on Gaza last December. The war ultimately left more than 1,400 Palestinians dead, including hundreds of women and children.
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