Accessibility links

Israel Will Not Deal with Arafat, Stresses Foreign Minister

Israel says it will not deal with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, who is involved in a power struggle with Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas.

Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom reiterated Sunday the Israel position that it will not deal with Mr. Arafat.

Israeli Radio reports that Israeli officials have told the Palestinian leadership Israel will withdraw its support of the road map peace plan, if the Abbas government falls.

The Palestinian parliament plans to hold a vote of confidence on the Abbas government on Thursday. The vote had been set for Monday, but was delayed following reports Washington asked that Mr. Abbas be given more time to muster support. A power struggle between Mr. Abbas and Mr. Arafat has intensified recently over control of Palestinian security forces.

Mr. Abbas is being challenged by Mr. Arafat, who reportedly wants to use the vote of confidence to have the Palestinian prime minister replaced.

Israel Radio, quoting Israeli officials, reported that U.S. officials have told the Palestinian leadership that if Mr. Abbas's government falls, the United States would withdraw its support for the internationally backed road map Middle East peace plan.

The plan, which is backed by Russia, the European Union, the United Nations, and the United States, calls for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state by 2005.

European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana is in Israel for talks with top officials about peace efforts in the region. After meeting on Sunday with Foreign Minister Shalom, Mr. Solana said he had rejected Israel's request for the European alliance to sever its contacts with Mr. Arafat.