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New U.N. Chief Speaks of the Need to Ensure Safety of Palestinians

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Until the current Arab-Israeli peace talks reach a settlement, ways must be found to promote “the safety and protection of Palestinian civilians under occupation,” U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali said this week.

Boutros-Ghali told a U.N. panel Wednesday that there is broad international agreement that the Palestinian question should be settled on the basis of Israeli withdrawal from the territories, recognition of the right of all states in the region to live in peace, and “recognition of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people.”

These rights include “self-determination, with the question of Jerusalem in this regard being of essential importance,” he told the U.N. Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.

This was the secretary-general’s first speech before a U.N. committee since succeeding Javier Perez de Cuellar on Jan. 1.

U.N. spokesman Francois Giuliani said no significance should be read into Boutros-Ghali speaking to this committee first. He pointed out that the various committees are just resuming their work after a New Year’s break and that the secretary-general was away last week.

Both Israel and the United States boycott the committee on Palestine, which is seen simply as a front for the Palestine Liberation Organization.

“We regret that the secretary-general found it suitable to address that committee,” said Aron Jacob, political counselor to Israel’s U.N. Mission. “It is appalling that the secretary-general should present such a one-sided point of view of the conflict.”

At the same time, Jacob said he doubted there was anything new in the secreary’s remarks.

“What he said is in line with the one-sided and biased resolutions adopted every year by the General Assembly and the Security Council,” he said.

Likewise, Giuliani said that Boutros-Ghali was only reiterating longstanding U.N. positions and that Perez de Cuellar had similarly addressed the committee.

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