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EU Condemns Latest Mideast Suicide Bombing - 2002-06-18

The European Union has condemned the bombing of a bus in Jerusalem that killed 19 people. But the 15 nation bloc says the attack should not be allowed to derail attempts to bring peace to the Middle East.

Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Pique, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, described the latest suicide bombing as a despicable act. He says such attacks are carried out by people who are enemies of peace and, as such, enemies of the Palestinian people, who have the greatest interest in getting the peace process back on track.

The bombing, which was claimed by the militant Islamic group Hamas, was also condemned by EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana. He issued a statement saying he is horrified by the level of violence reached during 21 months of fighting between Israelis and Palestinians, with innocent civilians the main victims of the conflict.

On Monday, at a meeting in Luxembourg, EU foreign ministers put five radical Palestinian groups on its blacklist of terrorist organizations, including the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, which has links to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement. That means that their assets must now be frozen by the 15 EU member states. The armed wing of Hamas has been on the list since last year.

Mr. Pique told reporters at EU headquarters in Brussels that the latest suicide bombing must not hinder attempts to revive the so-called peace process in the Middle East. The conflict in the region will be on the agenda of an EU summit later this week in the Spanish city of Seville.

Mr. Pique says he thinks the discussions among EU heads of state and government will focus on U.S.-led efforts to convene an international peace conference for the region and what he describes as the need to reform the Palestinian Authority.