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UN’s Big 5 Refuse Israel Decision to Expel Arafat

UN’s Big ‘5’ Refuse Israel’s Decision to ‘Remove’ Arafat

France, after Russia, Calls for Int’l Intervention

The United Nations Security Council five permanent members were in the forefront of a worldwide objection to the Israeli government’s decision on Thursday to “remove” President Yasser Arafat as an “obstacle” to peace.

The Israelis sounded shocked surprise at the international protesting outcry.

"In the early hours of this morning the phones rang from all over the world," Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said Friday. "They're asking us to do nothing against Yasser Arafat. Has the world turned on its head?"

US Secretary of State Colin Powell telephoned both Shalom and the Palestinian foreign minister Friday to emphasize the United States’ opposition to exiling Arafat. White House spokesman Scott McClellan said "it would not help matters; it would only serve to give him a broader stage."

Powell on Friday also assured Nabil Shaath, the Palestinian foreign minister, that he has weighed in with Israel to oppose exile of Arafat.

According to Shaath, Powell told him the United States had pressed Israel to call off any immediate move to oust Arafat.

"Mr. Powell ... told me that the United States acted effectively yesterday to stop any Israeli measure," the Palestinian foreign minister said.

Separately Britain’s foreign secretary, Jack Straw, said Arafat’s banishment would ultimately harm Israel.

"I urge Israel not to allow justified anger at the continuing violence to lead to actions that will undermine both the peace process and Israel's own interests," he said.

China, another UN Security Council permanent member, said the Israeli decision does not help the peace process.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan said Friday that Israel’s security cabinet decision to expel Arafat will intensify Israeli-Palestinian tensions.

“Chairman Arafat is the legitimate leader elected by the Palestinian people, Kong said, stressing that such a decision is unhelpful to the peace process in the Middle East,” he said.

He added China hopes Israel will take prudent action to avoid the deterioration of the Middle East situation.

The French President of a forth UNSC permanent member, Jacques Chirac, speaking from Spain before the Israeli decision, also stressed that "Yasser Arafat is the legitimate authority" of the Palestine National Authority (PNA).

"I think, and I believe the European Union also considers that it would be a serious mistake to try to eliminate him from the political arena," said Chirac.

Similarly, Chirac’s Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin warned that the decision would be "an action so extreme that it would be a grave error."

De Villepin on Friday called for an international force to help ease the tensions between Israelis and Palestinians.

"A international force would clearly show the international community's commitment to the decisions taken," said de Villepin at French radio France.

Similarly on Wednesday, Russian foreign minister Ivan Ivanov also urged international intervention.

"It is becoming more and more obvious that unless the world community intervenes in the settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the most determined way, it will be impossible to break the vicious circle of violence," Ivanov said.

Meanwhile, a statement from the Russian foreign ministry said "such a step would remove the possibility of peacefully resolving the Israeli-Palestinian crisis and would lead to an uncontrollable chain of events in the worst case scenario."

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana also expressed his "strong concern.”

And in Sydney, Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said: "I think the Israelis would be well advised to leave Yasser Arafat in place and to deal as best they possibly can with the new Palestinian prime minister, who is well known to us and is a very good man."

Meanwhile on Thursday, Canada said that Israel’s threat to remove Arafat could destabilize peace efforts.

"Canada is concerned that expelling Yasser Arafat would not benefit the peace process and have a negative impact on constructive Palestinian interlocutors," Foreign Minister Bill Graham's spokeswoman, Marie-Christine Lilkoff, said.

"We are concerned that the decision to expel Yasser Arafat could result in unforeseen consequences," she said.

Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-populated nation, Friday condemned Israel’s decision in principle forcibly to expel Arafat.

"Such an act has the potential to destabilize the Middle East region even further and certainly would not be conducive to the promotion of the peace process there," Foreign Ministry spokesman Marty Natalegawa told AFP.

He said Arafat has played a “crucial role” in efforts to reach peace in the region.

In harsher words, Malaysia Friday denounced Israel’s threat to expel Arafat and called on world powers to prevent it from being carried out.

"Such a move will not possibly help to attain peace because Israel appears to be increasingly arrogant in its actions," Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar said.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on Friday that it would be “unwise” to expel Arafat. "It would be unwise to expel Arafat," Annan said Thursday.

The Palestinians on Friday urged the UN Security Council to demand that Israel not expel Yasser Arafat and halt any threats to his safety.

The Security Council held consultations Friday afternoon on a draft resolution aimed at preventing Arafat’s expulsion. The meeting came at the request of Angola, representing the Non-Aligned Movement of 116 mostly developing countries.

The draft demands that Israel halt any deportation proceedings and "cease any threat to the safety of the elected president of the Palestinian Authority."

The draft resolution also demands "the complete cessation of all acts of violence, including all acts of terror, provocation, incitement and destruction."

It calls for increased efforts by Israel and the Palestinians to implement the US-backed peace plan known as the "road map," which envisions a Palestinian state by 2005.

The Security Council on Friday issued a press statement on the matter.

“Council members expressed the view that the removal of Chairman Arafat would be unhelpful and should not be implemented,” the statement said.

The Arab reaction was not less objecting. The only two Arab states, which have peace treaties with the Jewish state, objected to the Israeli decision.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said exiling Arafat, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, would cause a “very dangerous situation.”

Expelling Arafat would be “monumental error” that could lead to fresh Middle East violence, Mubarak warned.

"If we are talking about expelling Arafat, we would be making a monumental error. Not because we love Arafat. But because we want peace, we want security, we want stability," Mubarak said after talks in Rome with Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of Italy, current president of the European Union.

Similarly, Jordan said: “We consider this decision as hasty and represents a grave mistake that will not serve peace in the Middle East, but rather would be a serious threat to it,'' Jordan’s Information Minister Nabil al-Sharif told Reuters.

“We call for reconsidering this decision and remind all parties of their commitments to the road map,'' he added, referring to the US-backed peace plan aimed at establishing a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip by 2005.

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