Barak Urges UN to Shelve Plan to Probe Gaza Flotilla Raid

Defense Minister: Israel will hold Lebanon accountable for any blockade-busting ships it sends to Gaza, any violence that erupts as a result.

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NEW YORK - Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Monday urged UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to shelve plans for a UN-backed independent investigation of the deadly Israeli commando raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla last month.

Palestinians ride boats in a preparation for the arrival of a Gaza-bound flotilla from Lebanon on June 21, 2010.Credit: Reuters

Speaking to reporters after he met with Ban in New York, Barak said he told Ban the UN should suspend plans to set up an inquiry into Israel's May 31 interception, in which the Israel killed nine Turks, of the six-ship Gaza aid convoy.

"We expressed our view that for the time being, as long as ... new flotillas are in the preparation, it's probably better to leave it [a UN investigation] on the shelf for a certain
time," Barak said.

He said the five-person panel Israel has established, which includes two foreign observers, would be sufficient for now.

"We are moving ahead with our independent investigation, which we believe is clearly independent, reliable, credible and should be allowed to work," Barak said.

It was not clear if Barak meant Israel might accept Ban's proposal at a later date.

After his meeting with Ban, Barak stated that Israel will hold Lebanon accountable for the blockade-busting ship headed for Gaza, as well as any violence which might erupt as a result of Israel's attempt to stop.

Lebanon said earlier on Monday it would allow an aid ship bound for the Gaza Strip to sail despite warnings from Israel that it had the right to use all necessary means to stop ships
that try to sail from Lebanon to Gaza.

"we see the government of Lebanon responsible by granting permission for another ship with activists and aid on board to embark for Cyprus on a new attempt to reach the Palestinian territory," Barak told reporters Monday.

"As a result [of an Israeli attempt to stop the flotilla from reaching Gaza], there could be friction that could lead to violence, which is totally unnecessary," Barak said in a brief statement.

The Turkish group that sent the flotilla intercepted by the Israelis on May 31 has also vowed to send more ships to the blockaded territory, which is home to 1.5 million Palestinians.



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