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Israel Proposes Exile for Arafat

April 2, 2002

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JERUSALEM (AP) _ Israel told European diplomats that they could only meet with besieged Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat if they agreed to accompany him into exile, the Israeli Cabinet secretary said Tuesday.

Arafat has been in Israeli confinement in an office in his headquarters in the West Bank town of Ramallah since Friday. Israel has said it was completely isolating the Palestinian leader. In announcing the decision last week, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon left open the possibility that Arafat could be expelled at a later stage.

Sharon said Tuesday he was asked by European Union envoy Miguel Moratinos whether Israel would permit Arafat to leave Ramallah.

``I told him (Moratinos), if they would like, they will fly with a helicopter and will take him (Arafat) from here,″ Sharon said during a tour of West Bank army bases, in remarks carried by Israel Radio.

``First I would have to bring this to the Cabinet, second he (Arafat) can’t take anyone with him, the murderers who are located around him there and the third thing is that it would have to be a one-way ticket,″ Sharon said.

``He (Arafat) will not be able to return.″

The Israeli daily Haaretz said Foreign Minister Shimon Peres discussed possible arrangements for Arafat’s exile with Egyptian officials who rejected the plan. Officials in Peres’ office said he had not discussed Arafat’s expulsion with Egyptian officials.

Peres told Israel Radio the aim of Israel’s military offensive is to root out ``terrorist nests.″

``We didn’t come to get rid of Arafat or to resume the military administration,″ he said.

Israeli Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer has said that in a Cabinet meeting last week, Sharon had advocated Arafat’s ouster, but was persuaded by military intelligence officials that such a step would be counterproductive.

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