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Arafat Condemns Israeli Wall as 'Act of Racism' - 2002-06-17


Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has strongly condemned Israel's building of a security wall along its West Bank border. The Palestinian leader called the construction of the new fence an "act of racism," describing the $220 million fence as a "sinful assault on our land, an act of racism and apartheid, which we totally reject." The Palestinian leader was speaking to reporters during a tour of schools in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Israel began building the controversial security fence Sunday. It says the fence is aimed at stopping Palestinian attacks. Palestinians say the new barrier will only increase tensions after more than 20 months of violence.

The first 110 kilometer section of the wall is planned to run from a point just northeast of Tel Aviv to south of the port city of Haifa, roughly parallel to the Mediterranean coastline.

Mr. Arafat also rejected a recent statement by U.S. National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice about the Palestinian Authority. She told an American newspaper that the authority is corrupt and does not provide a basis for moving a Palestinian state forward.

Mr. Arafat says his administration is implementing what the Palestinian people want and does not "take orders from anyone." The United States and Israel have been putting pressure on Mr. Arafat to clean up the Palestinian Authority. He has responded by announcing plans to hold legislative and presidential elections by the end of the year and by condemning suicide bombings in Israel.

Meanwhile, a Palestinian bomber blew himself up near a group of Israeli border police near the West Bank city of Tulkarm. Israeli police said they saw a suspicious looking man approaching their vehicle. They say that when they asked him to stop he set off the explosives, damaging the vehicle but causing no other casualties.