Israel steps up campaign to isolate Arafat

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon headed to Britain on Sunday to press European countries to cut ties with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, calling on them to help remove the elected president from his position.

    Sharon wants Europeans to cut ties with Arafat

    Sharon said Europe was supporting Arafat, whom he accuses of inflaming violence in the illegally occupied Palestinian territories.


    In remarks published on Sunday, Sharon said European countries could have been more involved in the Middle East peace process if they had shown “a more balanced approach.”


    “I think there has to be a common approach to remove Arafat from all positions,” Sharon told a leading Norwegian daily, Aftenposten.


    The Israeli prime minister said that Yasser Arafat was trying to obstruct efforts by Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, who is favoured by Israel and the United States.


    “Europe keeps contact with Arafat, visits him, calls him, and prevents by this activity a solution of the problems here in the Middle East,” Sharon said.


    Arafat resists campaign

    A senior Israeli official told Reuters before Sharon's departure to London that Israel was adamant to remove Arafat from power and that Sharon would discuss this point with British Prime Minister Tony Blair.


    Israel accuses Arafat of
    undermining Abbas

    Arafat said in response that he had withstood previous attempts to isolate him and would be able to overcome this one as well.


    He then made a reference to the massacre of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon that was carried out by Israeli-backed Christian militiamen in 1982 when Sharon was defence minister.


    "Let him remember Sabra and Shatila and Beirut," said Arafat.


    Meanwhile, a British legal group, representing a human rights organisation, has pressed charges on Sunday against Sharon.

    According to the Muslim Association of Britain, the charges to be brought include Ariel Sharon’s inhumane practices against the Palestinian people.


    Such practices include demolishing houses and killing civilians, including women and children.

    Ivanov meets Arafat

    Despite the Israeli campaign to boycott Arafat, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov held talks with the Palestinian president on Sunday.


    "We call on both sides to implement obligations in the 'road map’ which will lead to a Palestinian state living side by side with Israel," Ivanov told reporters after the meeting.


    Arafat, in turn, repeated calls for international observers to be sent to the region.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera + Agencies


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