Background: Kofi Annan's climb to the top

NEW YORK - United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in a joint interview Thursday with Haaretz and Channel Two News, said that the Israelis and Palestinians are apparently unable to reach an agreement on their own, and that in the present circumstances he supports sending an "armed peace force as a buffer zone between the Israelis and the Palestinians."

Annan said that based on the present situation, a peacekeeping force should be stationed to help calm the situation and allow negotiations to continue.

He said that he would give Prime Minister Ariel Sharon the "benefit of the doubt" regarding his commitment to ending the occupation. "I expect that he will deliver and he will engage in the peace process," Annan said.

Annan added that he had recently spoken to U.S. President George W. Bush, who promised that he is still committed to the road map and its implementation, despite the difficulties.

The secretary-general recognizes Israel's responsibility to protect its citizens, but he recommends that it take "proportionate measures," while acknowledging that "this is very difficult." He says that suicide bombers are "reprehensible and cannot be defended," but notes that following Israel's reprisal operations, the terrorists come back and the cycle of violence continues.

He also proposed that Israel ease restrictions on the Palestinian population in the territories and renew negotiations despite the violence.

Click here for the full interview.