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Britain Will Not Cut Ties With Arafat,  Israeli PM Told in London - 2003-07-14


Britain has told Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon that it will not cut off contact with Palestinian President Yasser Arafat.

According to a British official, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw stressed in his meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon that London would continue to deal with Yasser Arafat, if and when it was judged to be useful.

Mr. Straw made it clear that the British position is with the wider European Union. Therefore, Foreign Secretary Straw says Britain will continue to maintain contacts with Mr. Arafat.

Israel believes breaking links with Mr. Arafat would help Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas pursue peace.

The talks between Mr. Straw and Mr. Sharon largely focused on the implementation of the Middle East road map for peace. They also touched on the issue of Jewish settlements.

A senior Israeli official described the atmosphere at the talks as "very good." Both sides made an effort to put the past behind them and open a new chapter.

Later, Mr. Sharon held talks during dinner with British Prime Minister Tony Blair at Number 10 Downing Street.

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