Kofi Annan's Top Envoy
Calls Israel 'The Great Poison'

The Globe and Mail
UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- The United Nations attempted Friday to distance UN Secretary General Kofi Annan from his top envoy's description of Israel as "the great poison" in the Middle East but Israel said it wasn't satisfied and is considering a formal protest.
The flap erupted when Lakhdar Brahimi, who is trying to help Iraqis agree on a transitional government to take power June 30, gave an interview to France Inter radio Wednesday criticizing Israel's policy and U.S. support for it.
Mr. Brahimi, a UN undersecretary general and special adviser to Mr. Annan, said his effort to help establish an interim government in Iraq is being made more difficult by Israeli policy toward the Palestinians.
"There's a lot of hatred because the very violent and repressive security policy of the Israeli government, as well as this determination to occupy more and more Palestinian territory, does not make matters easier," he said.
Mr. Brahimi stressed an eventual solution in Iraq is tied to the wide problem of peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.
"The problems are linked," he said.
"There is no doubt that the great poison in the region is this Israeli policy of domination and the suffering imposed on the Palestinians, as well as the perception of all of the population in the region and beyond of the injustice of this policy and the equally unjust support...of the United States for this policy."
At the UN briefing Friday, spokesman Fred Eckhard was grilled about whether Mr. Brahimi's comments reflect the UN position toward Israel.
"As a preliminary reaction, I could say that, as you know, he is a former foreign minister of Algeria and therefore he brings to the table strongly held and strongly expressed views about the Middle East peace process," Mr. Eckhard said.
"However, the official position of the United Nations on such matters is that set out by the secretary general in the many statements he has issued over the last seven years."
The UN spokesman was pressed several times on whether the United Nations believes Israel is spreading "poison" in the region.
"It's a politically complex issue," Mr. Eckhard said.
"Mr. Brahimi was expressing his personal views...The secretary general's views, as expressed over the last seven years, do not contain the word 'poison."'
Israeli deputy UN ambassador Arye Mekel said his country was "very disturbed" by Mr. Brahimi's statement which "puts the objectivity and fairness of the top UN officials in question and increases Israel's suspicion about the motivation of the United Nations."
"We are considering a formal protest to the secretary general," he said.
"We believe that a UN official should not criticize a member state and also ó there is no such thing as a private statement by a UN official."
The UN attempt to distance itself from Mr. Brahimi came as the Security Council was being briefed by Annan's top Mideast envoy, Terje Roed-Larsen, who said Israel's withdrawal from Gaza could "usher in a new era of peacemaking in the Middle East."
Mr. Mekel said Mr. Brahimi's statement was "contradictory" to recent statements by Mr. Annan and Mr. Roed-Larsen "who praised Israel" for the Gaza disengagement plan.
"It is strange to hear that the UN speaks in more than one voice," he said.
Mr. Brahimi continued his criticism of Israel on Friday in an ABC television interview with George Stephanopoulos to be broadcast Sunday.
He reiterated U.S. President George W. Bush's support of the Gaza withdrawal has made his work in Iraq more difficult.
"I think that there is unanimity in the Arab World, and indeed in much of the rest of the world, that the Israeli policy is wrong, that Israeli policy is brutal, repressive and that they are not interested in peace no matter what you seem to believe in America," Mr. Brahimi said.
"What I hear is that...these Americans who are occupying us are the Americans who are giving this blanket support to Israel to do whatever they like. So how can we believe that the Americans want anything good for us?" he said.
In the France Inter interview, Mr. Brahimi said: "There's an obligation of all of us to see how we can cohabit on this small planet with this superpower which is the United States."
"There are quite a few other people on this planet and the Americans should also make an effort to learn how to live with them," he said.
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