UNITED NATIONS – U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Monday it was "very urgent" to find out what happened during the Israeli military assault on the Jenin refugee camp, but Israel again deferred a decision on letting U.N. fact-finders into the region.
Israel's defiance left a three-man fact-finding team waiting in Geneva for a second straight day and further embarrassed Annan who said 10 days ago he had had received a green light from Israel.
Israel has since objected to the team's mandate and composition, including wanting more military and counterterrorism experts on the team.
"The Israeli Cabinet did not take a decision today as we had been led to expect," U.N. Undersecretary-General Kieran Prendergast told the Security Council, calling the news "disappointing."
Prendergast said Israel reported that its Cabinet would meet Tuesday morning to decide.
Annan's objective is unchanged — to deploy the mission "as soon as possible," Prendergast said.
"At this stage, it was very urgent that we go in, find out what happened, and put all the rumors and the accusations behind us," Annan said Monday.
The Palestinians accuse the Israeli army of a massacre of civilians during eight days of fighting that left part of the Jenin camp in rubble. Israel says its army fought intense gunbattles with Palestinian gunmen, who were the main victims, stressing that 26 suicide bombers came from Jenin.
The Security Council put off any action until the Israeli decision on Tuesday. U.S. deputy U.N. ambassador James Cunningham said patience is essential.
Mission spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in Geneva that the mission, now numbering more than 20 people, is "very balanced" and "very impartial."
But Gideon Meir, an Israeli Foreign Ministry official, said in Jerusalem, "Nothing good will come out of the U.N. ... It's an anti-Israeli organization."
The three main members are former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari; Cornelio Sommaruga, former president of the International Committee of the Red Cross; and Sadako Ogata, former U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.