Israel Criticizes Annan for 'Vague' Statement on J'lem Bombing

Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Daniel Gillerman on Friday launched a rare criticism of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan for issuing a "vague" statement on the suicide bombing in Jerusalem the day before, in which a Palestinian policeman blew himself up on a bus, killing 10 people and wounding more than 50 others, some seriously.

Israel on Thursday condemned as "outrageous" the failure by Security Council diplomats to agree on a press statement condemning the suicide bombing.

Gillerman told a news conference Friday that while Israel respected Annan's efforts toward a Middle East peace, his statement the day before signaled a trend by failing to mention Israeli victims in the Jerusalem explosion.

"No mention is made of the Israeli victims slaughtered in the bombing. In fact, no specific reference is made to the attack at all, or to a condemnation, in any terms of the terrorist perpetrators," he said.

"This is in distinct contrast to the tendency of the office of the secretary-general to issue statements of reprimand, with clear and specific detail, when Israel engages in defense measures against terrorist operatives..."

Annan's statement said in part: "Once again violence and terror have claimed innocent lives in the Middle East. Once again I condemn those who resort to such methods."

Gillerman said the "vague references to those who resort to violence and terror that have claimed innocent lives in the region are not sufficient."

Apparently anticipating the news conference, Annan told reporters in Brussels, "As you know, I have always condemned without reservation suicide bombings that take innocent lives..."

UN spokeswoman Marie Okabe said Annan's Middle East policy should be seen in light of all statements he had issued on the subject and one statement did not "make a policy."

On Thursday, Gillerman blamed on Algeria, the only Arab nation on the council, for insisting that any statement include a condemnation of the deaths of eight Palestinians in an IDF operation in Gaza City on Wednesday.

The suicide bomber, a Palestinian policeman from Bethlehem who struck near Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's residence, said in a note that he was avenging the Gaza deaths.

Council diplomats said three hours of closed-door negotiations fell apart Thursday when Algeria refused to issue a statement that did not include condemnation of the Gaza raid. Several other council members supported Algeria, the diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Gillerman said Thursday that the United States had unsuccessfully attempted to persuade its allies on the council.

"This attempt by Algeria to make a parallel between a clash between IDF soldiers and armed Palestinian gunmen and a suicide bombing in a bus killing 10 civilians is totally outrageous," said Israel's deputy UN ambassador Arye Mekel.

"We are upset that the council did not find a way to condemn this killing of innocent civilians."

Gillerman's criticism Friday was unusual as Israel has usually distinguished between Annan, who has spoken frankly against anti-Semitism, and the UN General Assembly, where Arab supporters have a majority.

Gillerman acknowledged that Israel now was taking the offensive in delivering criticism and proposing resolutions and statements in the United Nations, even if rejected.

He said Israel had a hand in asking the United States to prepare a Security Council statement condemning the Jerusalem attack by a Palestinian Authority policeman.

Gillerman said he had noticed a trend in Annan's secretariat over recent months. He singled out a requested General Assembly report on the West Bank separation barrier and said the secretary-general's dossier showed a "bias... that borders on the absurd.

"We know that there is a lot of criticism about the fence, but there are facts on the ground which nobody disputes." the ambassador said.