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Ban vows action on Flotilla; calls for release of detainees

UN chief will take swift action on the demand for an investigation into flotilla attack.



New York: UN chief Ban Ki-moon will take
swift action on the demand for an investigation into the
killing of nine pro-Palestinian activists on a Gaza Strip
bound aid flotilla that was attacked by Israeli soldiers.

The Security Council has passed a presidential
statement condemning Israel`s interception of the aid convoy
and calling for a "prompt, impartial, credible and transparent
investigation."

Ban`s deputy spokesperson, Marie Okabe, told
journalists that Ban would decide on a course of action soon.
While the majority of the Security Council wants the UN to
carry out the investigation, the United States supports a
domestic probe.

"The Secretary-General takes his responsibilities in
this regard very seriously," said Okabe.

"He will be discussing the future course of action,
including an investigation, with Arab, Turkish, and Israeli
officials, as well as with members of the Security Council and
other world leaders," she added.

The UN chief has already spoken Palestinian President
Mahmud Abbas, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan,
Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak, Israeli Foreign Minister
Avigdor Lieberman and French President Nicolas Sarkozy,
according to his office.
"I condemn this violence," Ban said, previously.

"It is vital that there is a full investigation to
determine exactly how this bloodshed took place. I believe
Israel must urgently provide a full explanation."

The UN has also asked Israel to release the hundreds
of detainees that are being held in the country.

"The most pressing issue is the release of the
detainees, return of the deceased and care for the wounded.
This should be done immediately," Okabe said.

The New York Times reported that Israel had begun to
expel activists but the deportation of about 410 activists to
Turkey was pending as officials waited for Israel?s high court
to rule on whether the detainees could be released without
facing any criminal charges.

Israel contests that it had to stop the flotilla of
six ships, led by the Mavi Marmara, from pushing past the Gaza
blockade and there are other ways of delivering aid.

Officials also maintain that they acted in
self-defense because Israeli commandos were being attacked by
the activists with knives and metal rods.

But several persons aboard the Marmara have
disputed this version.

"They had no knives, no axes, only sticks that they
used to defend themselves," said Norman Paech, a former member
of the Left Party in Germany, in a news conference in Berlin,
the New York Times, reported.

The presidential statement is also being discussed by
the Quartet, made up of the US, Russia, the European Union and
the UN, which is in consultations to implement the action
called for by the Council.

"This includes ensuring the delivery of humanitarian
assistance from the convoy to its destination as called for by
the Council," said Okabe.

"Quartet envoys have also been in close touch to
coordinate positions and work together."

The pro-Palestinian activists are planning to send
another 1,200-ton cargo ship, the Rachel Corrie, to break the
naval blockade next week.

The UN has repeatedly asked the Israel to remove the
three-year-old blockade, which violates the human rights of a
million-and-a-half Palestinians.

At the emergency meeting on Monday, senior UN official
for political affairs, Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, told the
Security Council that the "bloodshed would have been avoided
if repeated calls on Israel to end the counterproductive and
unacceptable blockade of Gaza had been heeded.

PTI

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