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Arafat Welcomes Saudi Peace Plan

March 27, 2002

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RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) _ Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat on Wednesday welcomed a Saudi offer to Israel to win normal relations with the Arab world in exchange for a withdrawal from territory it occupied in the 1967 Mideast war.

In a televised speech, Arafat said the offer, made by Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah at an Arab summit convening in Beirut, was ``courageous.″

``In the name of the Palestinian people and the Palestinian leadership, I would assert here our welcome of the courageous initiative which was declared by Crown Prince Abdullah regarding a peaceful solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict,″ Arafat said in a speech broadcast by the Arab satellite TV station Al Jazeera.

``This initiative, God willing, will turn at this summit into an Arab initiative for the peace of the brave between us and the Israeli people and Jews in the world,″ Arafat said.

Arafat initially was to address the summit itself by satellite, but summit organizers did not make time for him to speak. The Palestinian delegation to the summit withdrew in protest over what was perceived as a slight to their leader, said Farouk Kaddoumi, a senior PLO official attending the gathering.

Arafat has been confined to the Palestinian territories by Israel since December, and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon asserted again Tuesday that the conditions for lifting the travel ban were not yet in place.

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