Newsletter : 2fax0204.txt
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Are al-Qaeda Terrorists In P.A.?
The New York Post reports that a number of Al-Qaeda terrorists have
successfully made their way into PLO-controlled territory in Gaza.
They apparently crossed over from Egypt via the Rafiach tunnels.
Israeli and American security forces believe, according to the
Post, that some of Osama Bin-Laden's close assistants are among the
Gaza group. Other Bin-Laden troops may have taken up positions in
Lebanon. It is still not clear if their intentions are to establish
terrorist cells, or if they are there only to seek refuge from the
U.S. anti-terror forces.
Arafat Condemns Terror Attacks Against Israel
By VOA News
Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat said he was determined to put an
end to all terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians.
In an article published Sunday in The New York Times, Arafat said
terrorist groups "do not represent the Palestinian people, or their
legitimate aspirations for freedom." He said Palestinians want to
end their conflict with Israel, and that he and his negotiators are
ready to meet Israeli leaders to negotiate a peace deal.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told his cabinet Sunday
that he would not rule out a second round of high-level meetings
with senior Palestinian officials.
At the cabinet meeting, Sharon confirmed he held candid
discussions last week with three leading Palestinian figures,
including the deputy head of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud
Abbas. He said the talks focused on ways to end more than 16 months
of fighting that has left more than 1,000 people dead and
thousands more injured.
Israeli media reports said the Palestinian officials demanded that
Israel stop the planned killings of Palestinians suspected of
plotting deadly attacks against Israeli civilians.
Sharon reportedly told the Palestinians he would do so only if the
Palestinian leadership made a serious effort to halt the terrorist
attacks. He also said Arafat, who remains under virtual house
arrest, will not be allowed to travel until he hands over those
responsible for last year's assassination of Israel's tourism
minister, Rehavam Ze'evi. Sharon is due in Washington this
week for talks with President George W. Bush.
In related developments, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and the
speaker of the Palestinian legislature, Ahmed Quray, met for
another round of talks aimed at ending more than 16 months of
Middle East violence. Their second meeting in as many days took
place late Saturday, on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum
in New York. After the talks, Peres said the two sides did not
reach any conclusions about how to get back to the peace process.
U.S. and Israeli officials have dismissed statements by Arafat that
he is determined to end terror attacks. Secretary of State Colin
Powell said he was pleased that Arafat condemns terrorism, but said
action is what is needed. National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice
said the United States has not yet seen the 100 percent effort from
Arafat that is needed to get the peace process going again.
Sharon also signaled that he wants to see actions rather than
words. Sharon said he has not been persuaded by the Palestinian
leader's remarks and does not believe anybody else should
Sharon Signals Continued Contacts with Palestinians
By Ross Dunn (VOA-Jerusalem)
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has signaled that he is likely to hold
more meetings with top Palestinian officials despite objections
from Jewish settler groups. His comments followed his face-to-face
talks last week with Palestinian Authority leaders, the first such
discussions since he came to power nearly a year ago.
Sharon told his Cabinet that his first-ever high-level contacts
with senior Palestinian officials were not a sign of a change of
strategy in what he described as Israel's "fight against terror."
He was speaking after the disclosure that he had met with three
leading Palestinian figures at his Jerusalem residence last week.
Sharon confirmed that he had candid discussions with the deputy
head of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, the speaker of
the Palestinian Legislative Council, Ahmed Qurei'a, and Mohammed
Rashid, who is in charge of economic policy and financial affairs
in the office of Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat.
Leaders of the Jewish settler movement in the West Bank and Gaza
Strip accused the prime minister of breaking his pledge not to
negotiate under fire. Israeli newspapers printed extensive reports
of the conversations.
According to the Israeli media, the Palestinian officials demanded
that Israel stop its policy of targeted killings of Palestinians
suspected of planning or involvement in attacks against Jews.
Sharon replied that he would do so only if the Palestinian
Authority made a serious effort to halt terrorism. He also
emphasized that the most the Palestinian Authority could expect
from Israel at this stage was a long-term interim agreement.
Sharon said he rejected a plan drafted by Queri'a and the
Israeli foreign minister, Shimon Peres, which calls for a
Palestinian state to be established in the Gaza Strip and 42
percent of the West Bank, after which talks would begin on the
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