US source: Israel opposed to "high-level" Arafat meeting
November 05, 2001
Israel trying to foil Bush-Arafat meeting, U.S. claims
By Aluf Benn
The U.S. administration has been critical of Israeli policy in recent days
after the meeting between Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Palestinian
Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat at a weekend conference in Spain.
A senior American official complained to an Israeli official in recent days
that "Peres meets with Arafat, but every time the administration wants to
hold a high-level meeting with the Palestinian leader, Israel complains
Meanwhile, Palestinian Planning Minister Nabil Sha'ath told reporters in
Damascus that Arafat might meet U.S. President George W. Bush on the
sidelines of the UN General Assembly later this month. "It is possible," he
said, when asked about prospects for such a meeting. "It has been discussed
but I don't have anything fixed."
Sha'ath will be visiting Washington next week for meetings with senior
officials, including U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, to discuss the
possibility of such a meeting. He was in Damascus for a regular meeting of
Arab foreign ministers to discuss the U.S.-led war on terrorism and reviving
the Middle East peace process.
The administration is now deliberating on the issue of a Bush-Arafat meeting
in New York. Israel has expressed reservations about such a meeting,
preferring that Washington pressure Arafat to fight terror. The
administration routinely calls for the PA to crack down on terrorists.
Bush has not met Arafat since his inauguration as U.S. president in January.
But Bush, seeking Arab support for Washington's global coalition against
terrorism, has recently voiced support for a Palestinian state and Arab
officials have said Washington must do more to secure an end to the
bloodshed and a resumption of Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations.
"Such a meeting will serve the issue and we hope it will take place," Saudi
Foreign Minister Prince Saud al Faisal said in Damascus. Sha'ath also said
Arafat might still visit Damascus for talks with President Bashar Assad. A
visit in September, which would have been the first by Arafat in years, was
canceled at the last minute in controversial circumstances. Noting that the
"misunderstanding" had been resolved, Sha'ath said he hoped a new date would
be announced soon.
Peres heads for Brussels today for European-Mediterranean cooperation
conference, which Arafat will also be attending. As in Majorca at the
weekend, Peres has permission from Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to hold
"corridor" meetings with Arafat and, if invited to the same lunch or dinner,
to dine with the Palestinian leader. Peres has said that there is no point
in holding a working session with Arafat unless it is fully prepared in
The Brussels conference will bring foreign minsters from seven Arab
countries - Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria -
together with foreign ministers from European Union countries.
Peres will meet with his Belgian counterpart to discuss the chill in
relations between Brussels and Jerusalem after Belgian prosecutors decided
to proceed with the case against Sharon for his involvement in the Sabra and
Chatila massacres in Beirut in 1982.
After Brussels, Peres goes to France and Sweden, where he will meet with
Palestinian Parliament Speaker Abu Ala, at a meeting of the Socialist
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