Israel to Mount Diplomatic Blitz Ahead of United Nations General Assembly Meeting

NEW YORK - Israel is launching a focused diplomatic effort in New York today to convince UN member states and other international bodies that their ability to play a meaningful role in promoting Middle East peace depends upon their adoption of a balanced, unbiased stance toward the sides and the region's problems.

The vigorous diplomatic effort is taking place ahead of tomorrow's annual General Assembly session, considered to be the world body's central event.

Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom intends to relay the diplomatic message in a series of meetings with many of his counterparts, who are in town ahead of the assembly session. Shalom is slated to meet today with the foreign ministers of Egypt, Jordan, Canada, Denmark and Angola. Shalom is scheduled to meet with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on Wednesday.

The meeting with Egypt's Ahmed Abul Gheit is the first since he was appointed foreign minister in July, sources in Shalom's entourage said yesterday. Al Gheit served as his country's envoy to the UN for five years.

The talks would be used "to stress our agreement with the fact that the international community has an important role in promoting peace," while "making it unequivocally clear that Israel insists that the international community, in order to fulfill that role, must adopt a balanced, unbiased attitude," a senior official traveling with Shalom said yesterday.

Shalom intends to warn that extremist, biased views on Middle East issues are also a threat to moderate Arab and Muslim regimes that support democratic attitudes, the source said.

Israel also is expected to make a concerted effort to prevent the renewal of the UN discussion of the West Bank separation fence. Shalom will try and convince his counterparts that nothing will be gained by raising the issue again in the framework of the UN. Israel maintains that the fence is now being built according to a revised route in accordance with the Israeli High Court of Justice decision on the matter.

The diplomatic effort will focus on the fact that a large part of the fence's route is inside the Green Line, and that the construction of the barrier has resulted in a significant reduction in the number of terror attacks.

Nevertheless, according to reports from the UN, it appears that the PLO delegation in New York is bent on advancing a new resolution on the issue of the fence, which will call for a threat of sanctions unless Israel immediately complies with the International Court of Justice decision on the matter, and begins tearing down parts of the fence.