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Sharon to Enforce Arafat Travel

March 26, 2002

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JERUSALEM (AP) _ Despite U.S. pressure to allow Yasser Arafat to attend an Arab summit in Lebanon, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Tuesday that Israel reserved the right to prevent his return if there are terrorist attacks while he is gone.

In doing so, Sharon set an extremely difficult condition for allowing the Palestinian leader’s trip to go ahead.

``If it is said to Israel by the United States that (Israel) can refuse to allow him to return if there are terror attacks, it will be easier for me to allow him to leave,″ Sharon said in an interview with Israel TV.

Sharon also said that a decision to allow Arafat to go would be ``easier″ if there was ``a declaration by Chairman Arafat, in his own voice, to his people, about a cease-fire, and a call to stop the violence.″

Arafat has been confined for months to the West Bank town of Ramallah.

The United States has pressed Israel to allow Arafat to attend the Beirut summit regardless of whether the truce efforts by U.S. envoy Anthony Zinni succeed. Arab leaders convening in Beirut are expected to approve a Saudi proposal for Arab-Israeli peace in exchange for an Israeli return of all occupied land.

Sharon has said that there must be a truce for Arafat to attend, and last week suggested that his return would depend both on whether there were terrorist attacks in his absence and the content of his speech in Beirut.

Tuesday was the first time he said the United States had to sign on to that _ a demand that seemed very unlikely to be met.

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