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Israeli Decision to Expel Arafat 'Unwise,' says Annan - 2003-09-12

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan warned Friday that it would be unwise for Israel to expel Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Kofi Annan told reporters that expelling Yasser Arafat would only complicate the political situation in the Middle East.

He said, "We have already seen the implications, and I hope that the Israeli government will not apply the decision, which it has taken in principle."

Israel's decision has left the timing of such a move open ended. Calling Mr. Arafat an obstacle to peace after two suicide bombings killed 15 Israelis Tuesday, Israel's Security Cabinet vowed to remove the Palestinian leader in a manner that will be determined separately.

Mr. Annan says the issue will likely be raised when he meets with foreign ministers from the five permanent Security Council members Saturday in Geneva.

He says that he is sure the foreign ministers will discuss the Middle East, but the talks will focus on Iraq. Mr. Annan says what is needed is a full meeting of the so-called Quartet, comprised of the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations, which drew up the "road map" for peace in the Middle East.

Mr. Annan later issued a written statement in which he strongly urges the Israeli government to reconsider the decision to expel Mr. Arafat. He called the forcible transfer of the Palestinian leader "dangerous and counterproductive."

Mr. Annan has called on both sides to live up to their responsibilities under the road map, and urged them to exercise the utmost restraint.