Official says U.N.'s Ban wants multinational panel on ship raid

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has proposed a multinational investigation of Israel's raid on a Gaza-bound aid ship in which nine pro-Palestinian activists were killed, an Israeli official said on Sunday.

Ban has suggested establishing a panel that would be headed by former New Zealand prime minister Geoffrey Palmer and include representatives from Turkey -- under whose flag the ship sailed -- Israel and the United States, said the official from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office.

The Israeli leader discussed the proposal with Ban on Saturday and planned to convene senior cabinet ministers on Sunday to decide whether Israel would take part, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Israeli leaders have spoken publicly about setting up an Israeli investigation with foreign observers into the interception of the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara last Monday.

Ban also discussed with Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erodogan "options for moving forward with the investigation called for by the Security Council," the U.N. said on its website, referring to the Council's call for an impartial inquiry.

Israel's navy boarded another ship carrying aid to Gaza on Saturday. Its interception of the MV Rachel Corrie ended without violence following diplomatic efforts to avoid bloodshed.

Turkey's relations with Israel, once a close ally, have soured badly since the deadly raid on Monday. The Israeli official said there was hope that ties could be mended if Israel and Turkey cooperated in a committee investigating the incident.

The official said Israel also wanted to establish whether the Turkish government sponsored the Mavi Marmara, where activists used clubs and a knife to attack the marines -- resistance that appeared to catch Israeli military planners off guard. Israel has said seven of its troops were wounded.

Netanyahu said at the start of his weekly cabinet meeting that a smaller group of "violent extremists" had boarded the ship separately with the intention of clashing with Israeli troops.

"According to information we now have, this group boarded separately, from a different city, organized separately, was equipped separately .... and without passing the same inspection as the others," he said.

Participation of Israel's main ally the United States could address Israeli concerns about the panel's impartiality.

Together with Egypt, Israel tightened its blockade on the Gaza Strip after Hamas took over the coastal territory in 2007.

[Source: By Ari Rabinovitch, Reuters, Jerusalem, 06Jun10]

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