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US denies it pressured Abbas to delay UN action on Gaza

Oct. 6, 2009 9:58 A.M. (Updated: Oct. 7, 2009 9:11 A.M.)
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The United States denied reports on Monday that it pressured President Mahmoud Abbas to allow the United Nations to delay action to bring alleged Israeli war criminals to justice.

At the daily State Department press briefing on Monday, spokesperson Ian Kelly was asked about reports that US officials demanded that Abbas ask the UN Human Rights Council to delay a vote the report of investigator Richard Goldstone.

“I don’t know if I would accept your characterization of pressuring,” Kelly responded. “I think that we recognized that we had serious concerns with the recommendations and some of the allegations.”

Goldstone’s report called for Israeli and Palestinian officials to be investigated and prosecuted for alleged war crimes committed during Israel’s three-week assault on Gaza last winter. The delay of international action on the report has caused a wave of public outrage at Abbas and the Palestinian Authority.

Kelly said that he felt that Israel’s own investigations would be sufficient, presumably making international action unnecessary: “We felt very strongly that while these investigations should be investigated and addressed, that we thought on the one hand that Israel had the kind of institutions that could address these allegations. And of course, we urged Israel to address these very serious allegations.

“We didn’t want the report to distract us from our ultimate goal, which was to address the root causes of the tragic events of last January, and that’s the lack of a regional and lasting peace between the two parties – between the Israelis and the Palestinians,” Kelly also said.

The State Department spokesperson spoke in praise of the Palestinian Authority’s handling of the issue: “We appreciate the seriousness with which the Palestinians approach this very, very difficult issue, and we respect this decision to defer discussion of the report to a later date for the reasons that I just stated – that we want to make sure that we stay focused on the ultimate goal here.”

Asked specifically whether the US Consul General in Jerusalem held a meeting with Abbas in which he relayed a message from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton demanding that he call for a delay in the UN vote, Kelly said, “In all honesty, I’m not aware of that meeting, and so I can’t comment on it. I’m not sure that we would comment on a meeting – on a confidential, diplomatic exchange between one of our diplomats and a representative of the Palestinian Authority.”
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