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Israel Bans 15 Members from Palestinian Parliament - 2002-09-08


Israel has banned 14 Palestinian parliament members from attending the first parliamentary session to be held in the past two years.

The Palestinian Legislative Council is to meet Monday in its first full session since the beginning of the Intifada, the Palestinian uprising. The session will be held in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon gave the go-ahead for the meeting last week, but warned that members believed to be involved in terrorism would be barred.

The Secretary of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Ibrahim Abu al-Najar, says the remainder of the 86-member parliament will go ahead with the meeting despite the ban in order to swear in a new cabinet.

The parliament has not met since September 2000, when clashes began that have left more than 2,000 dead, most of them Palestinians.

The speaker of the parliament says Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat plans to deliver a major policy speech at Monday's meeting.

Mr. Arafat is under pressure from the United States and Israel to reform the Palestinian Authority as a first step to reviving peace talks.

Mr. Sharon says training and preparation of a new Palestinian security apparatus will begin this month, which he described as a "good beginning."

He demands that the Palestinian security forces halt attacks by Palestinian groups. He says this would pave the way for Israeli troops to withdraw from Palestinian self-rule areas of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Israeli soldiers took control of most Palestinian towns in June, following a series of suicide bombings.

Meanwhile in Hebron, Israeli troops arrested five suspected Palestinian militants, members of Mr. Arafat's Fatah faction.

Also in Hebron an explosive device was detonated in the Jewish quarter. No injuries were reported in the blast and soldiers were searching the area for those suspected of planting the bomb.

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