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Shaath Slams Israeli Incitement against Arafat


Shaath Slams Israeli Incitement against Arafat

‘Peace Is about Inclusion, not Exclusion’

Israel’s European campaign to divert international attention away from its failure to honor its declared commitment to the Quartet-adopted and US-sponsored “roadmap” peace plan by calling for sidelining Palestinian President Yasser Arafat is undermining the Middle East peace process, Palestinian foreign minister Nabil Shaath warned.

"Peace is about inclusion, not exclusion,” Shaath said after meeting his Hungarian counterpart Laszlo Kovacs in Budapest.

"We would also have liked to exclude (Israeli Prime Minister Ariel) Sharon himself, but this is not the way to peace,” he said.

Israeli incitement against Arafat is aimed at the “greatest potential” of pushing the peace process forward, Shaath stressed.

“Mr Arafat... has the greatest potential and capability of pushing this peace process to success,” Shaath added Tuesday.

Shaath’s comments came a day after Sharon met with British Prime Minister Tony Blair in an unsuccessful effort to convince London to cut its ties with Arafat, who has been blockaded by Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) in the West Bank town of Ramallah for months.

Israel’s efforts to politically isolate the veteran Palestinian leader is backed only by the United States but rejected by the European Union, with the exception of Italy recently.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said on Monday that his country would continue to deal with Arafat when it was deemed “useful.”

A British official said Sharon had raised the issue of “dealing” with Arafat with Straw, who had made it clear to him that Britain intended to stick to the stance adopted by the European Union.

“As the democratically elected leader of the Palestinian Authority, we will continue to have contacts with President Arafat where we judge it to be useful,” the official explained.

Sharon met Britain’s opposition and Jewish leaders after the British government rebuffed his appeals.

He held talks with opposition Conservative leader Iain Duncan-Smith in the early afternoon on Tuesday, after which he addressed the leaders of Britain's Jewish community.

A day earlier, Sharon and his British counterpart Tony Blair both reiterated their support for the “roadmap” for Middle East peace during what a spokesman for Blair described as "a very warm and constructive private dinner.”

British public opinion was not also forthcoming.

“Having encouraged the Palestinians to hold elections to give their president a popular mandate, Britain can hardly acquiesce in the removal of that mandate by fiat just because it is now inconvenient…Arafat remains a national symbol for the Palestinians, and thus a player,” the British Independent editorial said on Tuesday.

Another editorial by the British influential daily Financial Times refuted the major Israeli argument for boycotting Arafat:

“Israel is flatly wrong to argue that the best way for outside powers to strengthen the position of (Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmud) Mr Abbas is to sever all contact with Mr Arafat. On the contrary, the more Mr Arafat is ostracized, the more Palestinians are likely to rally round their veteran leader and to shy away from Mr Abbas,” the Financial Times said.

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