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Copyright The Jerusalem Post Newspaper

Sunday October 14, 2001

HEADLINE: MIA parents denounce Nobel Prize award to Annan, UN

By David Rudge and News Agencies

JERUSALEM (October 14) - Haim Avraham, father of St.-Sgt. Binyamin (Benny) Avraham, kidnapped by Hizbullah in the Mount Dov region just over a year ago, has instructed his lawyer to appeal against the decision to award the Nobel Peace Prize to the UN and its secretary-general, Kofi Annan.

Avraham and the parents of the other soldiers kidnapped in the incident, St.-Sgt. Omar Suwayed and Sgt. Adi Avitan, described the decision as a "shameful disgrace."

"This is the same UN which knew about the kidnappings, which made three video films and took photos, and which is still holding 53 items belonging to our boys - of which they have allowed Israel to see seven, and even then only with difficulty," said Avraham.

The prize was awarded to the UN and Annan on Friday for their roles in the "forefront of efforts to achieve peace and security in the world."

The Norwegian Nobel Committee, marking the centennial of the prize, said its choice was designed "to proclaim that the only negotiable route to global peace and cooperation goes by way of the United Nations."

Annan said he was awakened in the early hours Friday by a phone call, which typically would have meant "something disastrous." "But, of course," he said, "it was a wonderful way to wake up."

"I think the timing couldn't be better," he told reporters who thronged his house on Manhattan's tony East Side. "I think it's a great shot in the arm for us."

In its citation, the Nobel committee said, with the Cold War over, the UN is finally playing its intended role "at the forefront of efforts to achieve peace and security in the world, and of the international mobilization aimed at meeting the world's economic, social, and environmental challenges."

But in Israel, the reaction from some circles was less than congratulatory. "This is the same organization which is headed by Kofi Annan, who, together with his emissaries, tried to blur details as part of the UN's cover-up over these and other matters relating to the kidnapping," said Avraham.

"This is also the same Kofi Annan who at the [anti-racism] conference in Durban laid the groundwork by his speech for almost legitimizing terrorism against Israel.

"To award him and the UN the Nobel is not just mystifying, it is a downright shameful disgrace."

Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, meanwhile, applauded the decision, saying that Annan is known for his "humanitarian approach" and has changed the face of the UN. Peres added that Annan also has a positive approach toward Israel.

"I am proud that someone like him heads the UN," Peres said. "He justifiably merited the award." Avraham took a swipe at Peres for not criticizing the decision in light of the UN's unhelpful attitude over Hizbullah's kidnapping of the three soldiers and subsequent abduction of Israeli businessman, retired colonel Elhanan Tannenbaum.

"I respect Peres, but I think he should at least have said that the decision to award the Nobel Peace Prize to Annan and his organization was a bad mistake," said Avraham.

When Annan, a 63-year-old Ghanaian, became secretary-general in 1997 - the first leader to be elected from the ranks of UN staff - it was a time of turmoil, both inside and outside the organization.

The US had just blocked his predecessor, Boutros Boutros-Ghali of Egypt, from serving a second term, seeing him as anti-American. The UN had failed to prevent the 1994 genocide in Rwanda and the July 1995 Serb slaughter of Muslims in a UN-declared "safe zone" in eastern Bosnia.

Five years on and with Annan at the helm, the UN is playing major peacekeeping roles on many continents. At Annan's urging, the 189 UN member states pledged to cut in half the number of people living on less than a dollar a day, to ensure primary education for every child, and to start reversing the AIDS epidemic - all by 2015.

Since the September 11 terrorist attacks on the US, Annan has been galvanizing support for a global coalition to eliminate what he calls a scourge against humanity. He said Friday he expects that coalition to hold firm and become a key diplomatic player in sensitive Mideast peace negotiations.

During his first term, Annan began overhauling the cumbersome and often lethargic UN bureaucracy, a key US demand which led to settlement of a long dispute with Washington over the payment of UN dues.

For the first time, Annan openly admitted past UN failures.
He has won high marks for focusing the global spotlight on poverty, human rights abuses, Africa's conflicts and the AIDS epidemic - and for his character and moral leadership.

But he has also faced criticism for trying to negotiate with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and for standing by as UN peacekeepers were kidnapped in Sierra Leone.

Nonetheless, he was unanimously reelected to a second term in June, six months before his first term expired at the end of this year.

In Israel, POW coalition chairman Ze'ev Boim decried the Nobel decision, saying that it further tarnished a noble institution.

Boim said that Annan is directly responsible for the UN's collaboration and cover-up with the kidnappings in Lebanon and the absurd admittance of Syria to the Security Council.

Herut MK Michael Kleiner said: "The prize was tarnished in being granted to a terrorist like Arafat, and now it is being compromised again by granting it to Kofi Annan, who acted in a irresponsible and unhumanitarian manner regarding the videotape of the kidnapped soldiers on the Lebanese border."

Boim said: "The name of the prize should be changed from the Nobel Peace Prize for the Nobel Prize for collaborating with terror."

(Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.)

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