Calls for EU to save Middle East peace plan

Friday 12 September 2003 20.54
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Yasser Arafat
US opposes Israeli decision
Yasser Arafat US opposes Israeli decision
Arafat supporters
Thousands gather at compound
Arafat supporters Thousands gather at compound

The Palestinian Authority's chief negotiator, Saeb Ereket, has called on the EU to do more to save the ailing Middle East peace plan.

He said EU politicians should do less talking and fulfill their obligations as backers of the plan.

In Ramallah, thousands of people again rallied outside Yasser Arafat's compound, in protest at Israel's decision in principle to exile him.

Earlier, the Taoiseach said he was shocked at the Israeli decision to expel the Palestinian President from Ramallah.

Speaking to journalists after meeting the French President, Jacques Chirac, in Paris, Bertie Ahern said the Government was totally opposed to any attempt by the Israelis to remove Mr Arafat from his home.

He also said that the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Brian Cowen, would be conveying this view to the Israeli government.

Meanwhile, the United States ambassador in Israel met Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz to drive home Washington's message that expelling Yasser Arafat would be unhelpful.

The ambassador, Dan Kurtzer, said expelling Mr Arafat would give him a chance to travel the world presenting his case.

The decision by the US to voice its opposition to the plan in public is a departure from past diplomatic practice.

Warning from armed offshoot

The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, an armed offshoot of Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction, has warned it will 'strike everywhere' if Israel forces the Palestinian leader into exile.

The group has claimed responsibility for a number of anti-Israeli attacks since the Palestinian uprising in September of 2000.

Several countries have called on Israel not to go ahead with its threatened expulsion of Mr Arafat. The European Union, Russia and Egypt have expressed concern at the plan.

A meeting of Israel's security cabinet last night declared Mr Arafat a complete obstacle to peace, and agreed in principle to remove him at a time to be decided.