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Foreigners suicide bombers { May 13 2002 }

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Monday, May 13, 2002
Arafat says foreign powers support suicide bombers
JERUSALEM, May 13 (Reuters) - Palestinian President Yasser Arafat said Palestinian militants carrying out suicide attacks in Israel were supported by foreign powers.

Asked in a CNN interview if he would do everything possible to stop suicide bombers, Arafat said: "No doubt. This is my policy from the beginning. Although, there are some -- I don't want to say their names -- some international powers supporting this."

Arafat declined to answer when asked if the foreign powers were Iraq or Iran -- which the United States accuses of supporting terrorism. Both countries deny the U.S. charges.

In January, Israel seized a ship in the Red Sea which it said had been smuggling 50 tonnes of Iranian-funded arms to the Palestinian Authority in the Gaza Strip.

Arafat at first denied the charge but under international pressure, a court set up in his Ramallah headquarters last month convicted a Palestinian Authority paymaster for complicity.

But on CNN, Arafat again dismissed the smuggling charge.

"Do you think the Iranian government would give us weapons? When have they given us weapons?" he said. "I ask you a question: Is this ship can pass through the Suez Canal? Never. The Egyptians would not accept it."

Israel accuses Arafat of having links to the militants -- a charge he denies -- and the Sharon government and the United States have demanded he acts strongly to halt the attacks.

Palestinians are waging a 19-month-old uprising against Israeli occupation in much of the West Bank and Gaza Strip outside their main towns and refugee camps which had won self-rule under an initial peace process frozen since 2000.

At least 1,349 Palestinians and 474 Israelis have been killed in the violence, marked by Palestinian bombings and ambushes and Israeli army incursions into self-rule zones.


Arafat said that after a leader of the militant Islamic group, Hamas, praised the latest suicide bombing near Tel Aviv which killed 15 people, Palestinian security forces arrested 24 Hamas leaders and members.

He still did not know who was behind that attack, he said.

Israel has reportedly shelved for the time being an assault on the Gaza Strip, widely anticipated after the bombing. Israel at the end of March launched an offensive on the West Bank and besieged Arafat in his compound for weeks after an earlier spate of suicide bombings.

The offensive caused widespread destruction to Palestinian infrastructure and serious suffering among civilians. Israeli troops have since pulled out of West Bank towns but continue to encircle them and stage raids in pursuit of more militants.

Arafat was apparently speaking before Israel's ruling Likud Party dealt a further blow to prospects for Middle East peace talks by voting late on Sunday against any future establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

He said he thought that Palestinians were close now to establishing their independent state "side-by-side with Israel, with the Israeli Jewish state."

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the Likud vote undermined prospects for a peace agreement, showed the true intentions of Israel and would increase Palestinian frustration.

Arafat said he planned to attend a U.S.-proposed Middle East peace conference if it was held at the level of heads of state.

Arab states have responded coolly to U.S. plans to hold such a conference this summer and are also concerned that Israel could veto Arafat's attendance.

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Foreigners suicide bombers { May 13 2002 }
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Invoke suicide bombers { January 24 2003 }
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