WASHINGTON – Bringing the Goldstone Report back to the fore, the UN General Assembly is expected to meet on Friday to pass a resolution giving Israel five more months to investigate its role in Operation Cast Lead, while also giving an extension to a probe recently launched by the Palestinian Authority.

Backed by the Arab League, the resolution – which is expected to pass – grants a five-month extension to both sides following a progress report by Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon earlier this month. At the end of the five-month period, Ban is expected to report back to the UN in order to consider further action.

Though written in generally mild language, the resolution puts the Goldstone Report back on the agenda at the UN. In November, the General Assembly endorsed the report, written by a fact-finding team headed by Judge Richard Goldstone. The report, which accused both sides of war crimes during Operation Cast Lead, called for independent investigations to be launched within three months.

General Assembly president Ali Treki of Libya, visiting Egypt this week, told President Hosni Mubarak that he plans to hold a plenary meeting soon to consider a resolution regarding the implementation of the Goldstone recommendations. Jean-Victor Nkolo told reporters in New York that Treki would convene a meeting “at the earliest possible date.”

But sources said the plenary could be convened as early as Friday.

In a report by Ban earlier this month, the top UN official included Israel’s 46-page document outlining its investigations to date, as well as a short document from Palestinians that described their newly formed investigative commission. Without assessing either side, Ban stressed the need for both sides to carry out appropriate investigations.

“International humanitarian law needs to be fully respected and civilians must be protected in all situations and circumstances,” he wrote.

Israel refused to cooperate with the fact-finding mission, suggesting that the resolution granting an extension to its investigation would do little to change its approach.

The new resolution calls on Israel to “conduct an independent, reliable investigation that complies with international standards of the severe violations of international humanitarian law, as the committee for the investigation of the facts reported, in order to guarantee the assumption of responsibility and justice,” according to Ynet.

It also includes a demand for the Palestinian side to investigate, but does not specifically charge Hamas or the Palestinian Authority with conducting a probe. Ban’s report should be used to “weigh additional moves, if needed, by relevant UN bodies, including the Security Council.”

Defense Minister Ehud Barak traveled to the United States on Tuesday to meet with US and UN leaders. He is scheduled to meet with Ban on Wednesday in New York, Israeli officials said.

In Washington, he will meet with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Pentagon chief Robert Gates, US Joint Chiefs of Staff leader Adm. Michael Mullen and Middle East special envoy George Mitchell and National Security Council official Dennis Ross.



It is unlikely the Security Council would consider the report, however. Several permanent members of the Council – including the US, the United Kingdom and France – are against bringing it to the Council.

US officials declined to characterize how they will vote on Friday, but they have opposed the Goldstone mission and report.

“Our position on Goldstone is pretty clear,” said one US official. “We prefer to see the issue raised not through UN action but domestic investigations.”

Western diplomats said they were watching to see how the European nations would vote.

“They’re looking at the language,” said one Western diplomat. “The big question is how the Europeans will vote.”

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