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Arafat, Mubarak Discuss Statehood

February 21, 1999

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) _ Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat may ignore international warnings and declare a Palestinian state despite Israeli protests, Egyptian Foreign minister Amr Moussa said Saturday.

Arafat has said in the past that he will declare a state on May 4, the deadline for completion of negotiations under the Oslo accords, but he is under international pressure not to declare, and has since given contradictory statements.

Asked whether he thought Arafat was determined to go ahead with his declaration, Moussa said ``I believe so,″ but added that Arafat ``is open to discussion″ about postponement.

Moussa made the comments after attending a meeting between Arafat and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, which focused on the issue of Palestinian statehood.

Arafat later left for the Gaza Strip without speaking to reporters.

Palestinian Planning Minister Nabil Shaath said hours later in Gaza City that preparations were continuing to declare a state on May 4.

Several countries, Egypt included, have been pressuring Arafat to at least postpone the declaration, particularly since many believe it could influence the outcome of the Israeli elections.

The implementation of the Oslo peace process has stalled over disagreements on Israeli troop withdrawals from the West Bank and Palestinian measures against terrorism.

Arafat arrived in Cairo late Friday from the Vatican, where he met with Pope John Paul II and renewed his invitation for the pontiff to visit Bethlehem in the year 2000.

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