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Arafat Appeals to World Leaders - 2002-01-26

In the face of strong U.S. criticism, the Palestinian Authority has appealed to all factions to stop their attacks against Israeli targets, saying that with the support of the international community Israeli-Palestinian violence can be halted within 24 hours.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and his cabinet have appealed to world leaders to help end the fighting with Israel.

At the same time, the Palestinian leadership called on all factions to enforce a "comprehensive ceasefire" and to stop operations against Israel, declaring that such attacks were not in the Palestinian national interest.

The statement was issued after a meeting in the West Bank town of Ramallah, where Mr. Arafat has remained confined since early December by an Israeli military blockade.

About 2,000 Palestinians rallied outside the Ramallah compound Saturday to show their support for Mr. Arafat.

Some of the demonstrators were invited inside where they heard Mr. Arafat condemn Israel's air strikes Friday against Palestinian security installations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Israel says the raids were in retaliation for a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv on Friday. Officials say Mr. Arafat will not be allowed to leave Ramallah until he halts terror attacks and arrests those Palestinians responsible for the assassination of an Israeli cabinet minister in October.

President George W. Bush, in unprecedented criticism of the Palestinian leader, said Friday that he was "very disappointed" in Mr. Arafat.

The president also condemned those who had attempted to smuggle weapons on board a ship reportedly bound from Iran to the Gaza Strip, as an attempt, as he put it, to "enhance terror."

In an interview Saturday, Mr. Arafat said the U.S. administration was adopting the wrong stance and should instead be doing more to bring peace to the Middle East.

The Israeli-Palestinian clashes have raged for nearly 16 months, leaving more than one-thousand dead and thousands injured.

The Palestinian leadership said in its statement, that if the United States, Russia, Europe and the United Nations made a serious effort to intervene it would be possible to enforce a cease-fire which it says would end the current armed conflict with 24 hours.