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Palestinians Unveil Monument to Arafat 


Palestinians have paid tribute to their late president Yasser Arafat, a legendary Arab leader in the Middle East. As Robert Berger reports from VOA's Jerusalem bureau, the ceremony comes against the background of new peace moves between Israel and the Palestinians.

Palestinians unveiled a posh mausoleum in the West Bank for Mr. Arafat, the longtime symbol of the Palestinian cause and the first president of the Palestinian Authority. The ceremony took place at Mr. Arafat's former headquarters in the town of Ramallah, one day before the third anniversary of his death.

The $1.75 million monument is made of glass and stone. A railroad track underneath symbolizes its temporary nature. Officials say they hope to move the structure to Jerusalem one day, when it is the capital of a future Palestinian state. For now, Israel will not allow Mr. Arafat to be buried there.

At the ceremony, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who is far less powerful and popular than his predecessor, vowed to continue in Mr. Arafat's footsteps.

He said the Palestinians are continuing on the path to establish an independent Palestinian state, with Jerusalem as its capital.

Mr. Arafat died in 2004 and since then his Fatah movement, now led by Mr. Abbas, has lost ground to the Islamic militant group Hamas. Hamas routed Fatah forces and seized control of the Gaza Strip in a Palestinian civil war in June.

Hamas refuses to renounce violence or recognize Israel, but Mr. Abbas, who heads a more moderate government in the West Bank, is trying to negotiate a peace deal with the Jewish state.

The unveiling of the mausoleum is meant to give a boost to Mr. Abbas's legitimacy ahead of an international peace conference in the United States planned for the end of this month.

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