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Israel Rejects Arafat’s Quartet Cease-fire Offer

Israel Rejects Arafat’s Cease-fire, Qurei Slams ‘Chaos of Arms’

Jerusalem Apartheid Wall to Be Completed within 12 Months: Mofaz

Palestinian President Yasser Arafat declared a commitment to reaching a total cease-fire with Israel in a letter given to envoys of the peacemaking “Quartet”, but Israel rejected his offer, as the Palestinian Prime Minster-designate declared he intends to end what he termed the “chaos of arms.”

The US and Israel meanwhile continued their talks on the Apartheid Segregation Wall the Jewish State is building on Palestinians territory it occupied in 1967.

Senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told Reuters that Arafat on Sunday received “Quartet” envoys from the EU, UN and Russia in his battered West Bank compound where Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) have confined him for almost two years, since December 2001.

"President Arafat handed them a letter in which he said he is committed to a total cessation of violence against Israelis anywhere, provided the Quartet intervenes to revive the “roadmap” to Middle East peace and sends monitors to commit the two sides to implement it."

Erekat said Arafat also reiterated his commitment to the “roadmap,” which calls for an end to violence and the start of reciprocal steps leading to a Palestinian state by 2005.

US envoys were absent from the meeting as part of Washington’s policy, echoing Israel, to boycott Arafat for allegedly instigating violence-- a charge he denies.

But Arafat’s letter cited conditions, including an international observer force to help enforce US-led peace moves that Israel has already rejected. Israeli officials swiftly dismissed Arafat’s initiative as a ploy to avoid threatened expulsion.

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Raanan Gissin, a senior adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said: "Everything he (Arafat) says to the Quartet is based on his fear of the sword of Damocles over his head -- the fear that he will be deported." Gissin was referring to an Israel cabinet decision in principle two weeks ago to “remove” Arafat by unspecified means.

Sharon dismissed on Sunday the United Nations General Assembly vote demanding that it drop the decision to “remove” President Arafat.

"We will not change our positions as a result of this or any other vote," Sharon said in the weekly cabinet meeting.

Meanwhile, 80-year old veteran Israeli politician and leader of the opposition Labor party Shimon Peres said Monday that Arafat, who is now shunned by Israel and the United States, deserved the Nobel Peace Prize they both won with Yitzhak Rabin in 1994.

"I want to be honest and I don't care what they say," Peres told an international peace symposium held as part of his 80th birthday celebrations. "I believe ... it was right to give him the Nobel Prize."

Arafat, he said, broke ground by publicly recognizing Israel, declaring he would "go out of terror to the domain of negotiations" and saying a Palestinian state should be formed in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip rather than inside Israeli territory.

Qurei Slams “Chaos of Arms’

In the meantime, the Palestinian prime minister designate Ahmad Qurei (Abu Alaa) complained Monday about the “chaos” of weapons in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip but suggested that — like his predecessor Mahmud Abbas (Abu Mazen) — he would not use force to disarm Palestinian anti-Israeli occupation groups.

Qurei met with President Arafat on Monday, after consulting with Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian opposition groups in the Gaza Strip. The groups turned down Qurei’s request to join his government, but announced their willingness to consider a new Hudna (cease-fire) provided Israel stops its extra-judicial assassinations of Palestinian activists.

"We still need more consultations on ending the chaos in the streets, in the administration and in the Palestinian mentality," Qurei told reporters at Arafat’s West Bank headquarters. "This is the main issue ... including the chaos in using, distributing and storing weapons."

That was one of the strongest statements yet by a Palestinian leader against the proliferation of weapons not authorized by the PNA in the occupied Palestinian territory.

Palestinian activists say they need these weapons to defend themselves against Israeli ongoing assassinations, which Israeli officials dub “targeted killings.”

On Monday, the IOF extra-judicially killed Basel Qawasmah in the southern West Bank city of Hebron and demolished the house he was hiding in.

The Jewish state also continues the construction of the Apartheid Segregation Wall, which Israeli officials call a “security fence,” confiscating in the process large areas of the West Bank, and either displacing or cutting thousands of Palestinians from their people as well as from their agricultural land.

The section of the Wall, which is to include occupied east Jerusalem, will be completed within the next 12 months, Israeli “Defense” Minister Shaul Mofaz said Monday.

"Following the murderous attack on August 19 on the bus load of children, the cabinet decided to include Jerusalem in the fence," Mofaz told public radio.

"We hope that this work will be finished within the coming year," the minister said as he inspected the building work.

The Jerusalem section of the Wall “annexes” at least 50,000 Palestinians to occupied east Jerusalem and cuts them off from their brethren and businesses in the West Bank.

On Sunday, an Israeli delegation headed by Dov Weisglass, the top aide to Israel’s Prime Minister Sharon, began a visit to Washington to present proposed routes for the Wall.

Fueling Palestinian anger further, Reuters reported Monday that the IOF have begun using Russian immigrant soldiers, veterans of fighting in Chechnya, as snipers to guard illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory.

Israeli security sources told Reuters that a unit dubbed the “Immigrant Legion” was created recently by recruiting several dozen Russian-born men aged 40 and over who were too old to qualify for reserve duty but had volunteered to serve in semi-official security squads.

The United Nations, the United States and international community consider Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory illegal.

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