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U.S. Citizen Taken into Custody for Alleged Terror Ties


Israeli authorities Wednesday have given the media permission to report that U.S. citizen Abed el-Qarem was taken into custody in Ben-Gurion International Airport recently by agents of the General Security Service - Shin/Bet, and police on suspicion of connections to terror organization. El-Qarem is alleged to be affiliated with the Hamas fund raising arm HLF.

Bush Welcomes Arafat's Call for Palestinian Reform

By VOA's Scott Stearns (Washington) & Meredith Buel (Jerusalem)

President Bush has welcomed Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat's call for reforming the Palestinian Authority. The Bush Administration and Israel are both calling for an end to corruption in the Palestinian Authority.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Bush is waiting to see whether Arafat follows-up his words with actions. "Yasir Arafat's words in his speech were positive, but what is most important to President Bush is to see action, more than words," the spokesman said.

"And so the president will wait to see whether or not Yasir Arafat and others in the Palestinian Authority actually take action that lead to a better life for the Palestinian people and actions that lead to a region that can live in more stability and security."

In a speech in the West Bank town of Ramallah Wednesday, Arafat admitted making "mistakes" and called for a review of all administrative and ministerial offices as well as Palestinian security forces.

President Bush is sending CIA Director George Tenet back to the region to help restructure those security forces under a single, unified command to give the Authority what the president called "accountability" in the fight against terrorism.

Arafat also called for "speedy preparation" for elections to ensure the separation of powers in the Palestinian Authority. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said he would not start peace talks until the Authority undergoes structural reforms in all areas. The Israeli leader said there cannot be any peace with what he called "a dictatorial, corrupt, tyrannical regime."

Arafat said peace with Israel remains his strategic option. He said he will never abandon the option of peace with Israel, saying peace is in the common interest of both peoples.

The Palestinian leader says a "new formula" is needed for administering the Palestinian Authority and its security forces. Arafat said there is a need to "re-evaluate" those institutions and see where mistakes have been made. He also proposed "speedy preparations" for new elections, but did not set a date or provide details.

Arafat reiterated his call for an end to terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians, saying such operations do not serve the Palestinians' efforts toward statehood. The Palestinian chairman said he is responsible for recent controversial deals ending Israel's siege of his headquarters in Ramallah and the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

Cannes Film Festival Opens Amid Controversy

By Lisa Bryant (VOA-Paris)

France's celebrated Cannes Film Festival opened Wednesday night with a special appearance by Woody Allen - and some real drama. An American group has urged the U.S. film industry to boycott the festival, because of recent anti-Jewish attacks in France.

The 55th Cannes Film Festival promises to be a spectacular 12 days of movie debuts, parties, star gazing, and business negotiations among movie moguls. As usual, the festival in southern France is expected to draw a glittering cast of actors, directors, and other celebrities.

What is new this year is who may not attend. The American Jewish Congress has urged the Hollywood film industry to boycott the Cannes Film Festival, because of several recent attacks in France against Jewish schools, synagogues, and other institutions.

Police blame many of the attacks on angry French youth, many of them Muslims sympathetic to the Palestinian cause. But the American Jewish Congress has compared the incidents to those under France's pro-Nazi Vichy government of World War II.

The boycott call has drawn strong criticism - not only from the French government, but most recently from Woody Allen. In an interview on French radio Allen, who is Jewish, said the Nazis once called for boycotts as well - but against Jews. "Well, I think any boycott is wrong, because I think boycotts are exactly what the Germans were doing against the Jews."

Tuesday evening, a group of North African youths violently assaulted five young Jews, and several of the latter suffered broken jaws. A local police officer reported that the attackers numbered 20 people.

Israeli Arab Sisters Charged with Aiding Islamic Jihad Terrorists


A second pair of Israeli Arab sisters are being charged with working with terrorists and planning terror attacks. Lina (28) and Lamis (29) Nasser, from Arabe in the Galilee, are being charged with working to assist terrorists, working to get them Israeli identity cards, and plan attacks. The indictment was handed down in the Haifa District Court Wednesday. Earlier in the week, INN reported that other sisters, from Sakhnin, were being charged with aiding terrorists and planning an attack in a shopping center.

Cellular Phones to Be Banned in Gas Stations


Israeli government agencies are working to finalize legislation that will make it illegal to use a cellular telephone in gas stations. The move is being prompted by a fire in a gas station in Europe some time ago that investigators feel may have been the result of a spark emanated from a cellular telephone.

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