Envoy urges UN to quit West Asian mediating group

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JERUSALEM, Oct 15 (Reuters) The United Nations should pull out of the Quartet of West Asian mediators unless the group starts taking Palestinian human rights seriously, a UN envoy said today.

John Dugard, the UN special rapporteur on human rights for the Palestinian territories, told the BBC the world body ''does itself little good'' by remaining in the Quartet group of the United States, European Union, Russia and the United Nations.

''In my most recent report to the General Assembly...I will suggest that the secretary-general withdraw the UN from the Quartet, if the Quartet fails to have regard to the human rights situation in the Palestinian territories,'' Dugard said.

Dugard, who is due to present the report next month, could not immediately be reached for comment.

The South African, who has served in the independent post since 2001, said Israeli checkpoints in the occupied West Bank were meant to divide the territory into ''cantons'' and ''make the life of Palestinians as miserable as possible''.

Israel says its network of West Bank checkpoints -- which Palestinians call collective punishment -- are necessary to stop suicide bombers.

Dugard's comments echoed searing allegations from a former UN West Asian envoy who said in June after leaving the post that UN policy in the region had failed because it was subservient to US and Israeli interests.

Alvaro de Soto upbraided the Quartet for failing the Palestinians and also urged the UN's secretary-general to ''seriously reconsider'' continued UN membership in the group.

Dugard said the Quartet was ''heavily influenced'' by the United States, and criticised Western powers for backing Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah faction while maintaining a crippling boycott of Islamist group Hamas.

''The international community has given its support almost completely to one faction, the Fatah faction,'' he said. ''That's not the role the U.N. should take.'' Dugard was sceptical that a US-sponsored peace conference expected next month would succeed in bridging Israeli and Palestinian differences on creating a Palestinian state.

He warned of ''serious consequences'' if expectations are not met, raising the possibility of a third Palestinian uprising, or Intifada, against Israel.

''Inevitably in a military occupation, there are likely to be those engaged in resistance,'' he said, noting that history may treat those deemed ''terrorists'' differently.

REUTERS SKB RK1728

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