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Israel says no plan kill Arafat; pressure rises
( 2003-09-16 09:46) (Agencies)

Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom Monday dismissed comments by a cabinet minister that Israel could kill Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, but the remarks served to increase international pressure for caution.

Palestinian demonstrators carry posters of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat during a demonstration to support him in the West Bank city of Jenin Sept. 15, 2003. Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom dismissed comments by a cabinet minister that Israel could kill Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, but the remarks served to increase international pressure for caution. [Reuters]
Vice premier and Industry and Trade Minister Ehud Olmert said Sunday that "killing (Arafat) is definitely one of the options" which include exile or isolating him in his compound.

The remarks, on Israel's decision in principle to expel Arafat from the West Bank, drew worldwide protests.

"He (Arafat) embodies Palestinian identity and national aspirations," U.N. envoy Terje Roed-Larsen said at a Security Council debate on the Middle East crisis.

The European Union also counseled caution. "We do not expect it (assassination)," EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana told reporters in Brussels. "I do not believe that anything of that nature is going to take place."

He stressed he had neither sought nor received guarantees that Arafat, confined to his ruined West Bank headquarters in Ramallah for more than a year, would not be assassinated.

The Quartet of powers steering an Israeli-Palestinian peace process -- the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations -- are expected to meet in New York next week on the sidelines of a U.N. General Assembly session.

Arafat has denied accusations that he is involved in orchestrating violence during a three-year-old Palestinian revolt against Israel for independence.

Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a militant group inside his own Fatah movement, has carried out scores of attacks.


Israeli Foreign Minister Shalom, responding to Olmert's comments, told foreign journalists at a briefing:

"There will be no immediate action. It's not official policy of the Israeli government...We don't speak about killing (him). We didn't speak about it before, and we don't speak about it today."

The United States has voiced opposition to any attempt to kill or expel Arafat, moves that Secretary of State Colin Powell said would spread "rage throughout the Arab world."

"If the Israeli government assassinates or expels President Arafat, there will be a cycle of violence that will last for years," Palestinian Internal Security Minister Mohammed Dahlan told reporters in Gaza.

Israel threatened to "remove" Arafat after a recent surge in bloodshed, including back-to-back Palestinian suicide bombings in Israel that killed 15 people last week, which have shredded a U.S.-backed peace plan known as the "road map."

"The decision of the Israeli cabinet...merely states the obvious -- that Mr. Arafat is an obstacle to peace," Israel's U.N. envoy, Dan Gillerman, told the Security Council.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians, some of them firing assault weapons in the air, have demonstrated on Arafat's behalf. Many flocked to his half-demolished compound and vowed to hold a 24-hour vigil to ward off any attempts to snatch him.

Nabil Abu Rdainah, a top aide to Arafat, said a number of Arab heads of state had called Arafat to express solidarity with him and the Arab League was to meet shortly to weigh how to counter Israeli threats against him.

In Tafuh near the occupied West Bank city of Hebron on Monday, around 2,000 Palestinian children demonstrated in support of Arafat, witnesses said.

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