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Arafat Rejects Israeli Conditions for Ending Seige - 2002-09-23


Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has rejected Israel's conditions for bringing about an end to the siege against his West Bank headquarters. Mr. Arafat has refused to provide a list of the Palestinians who are with him in the only building left standing in the complex.

Palestinian Cabinet Minister Saeb Erekat announced Mr. Arafat's decision after meeting with the Palestinian leader Monday in his besieged office in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Israeli forces have laid siege to and demolished most of the sprawling complex following two suicide bombings in Israel last week.

Mr. Erekat was allowed to enter the compound to brief Mr. Arafat on his earlier meeting with Israeli officials. He was the first visitor to the devastated compound, where only one building remains standing.

Mr. Arafat remains there along with dozens of aides and security officials.

The speaker of the Palestinian parliament, Ahmed Qrei'a, accused the Israeli army of using its superior might to humiliate Mr. Arafat and the Palestinian people.

"The Israeli army we know that it is the superpower [in the region], the most sophisticated arms, supported from the United States, and they are using all these sophisticated arms against the Palestinian people, against their leader and against the President," he said, referring to Mr. Arafat.

Israel is demanding the surrender of 20 wanted Palestinians in the Ramallah compound, including Mr. Arafat's West Bank intelligence chief Tawfik Tirawi.

Palestinian officials say Mr. Arafat will never agree to hand over such a senior figure and loyalist.

At the same time, Israeli Foreign Minister, Shimon Peres says the Palestinian leader's life is not in danger.

"There is no physical danger to Arafat or anybody else," he said. "The demand is that the people who are on the list of the wanted should surrender peacefully. And the call is all the time through loudspeakers for them to surrender."

Some Israeli cabinet ministers are calling for Mr. Arafat to be sent into exile.

Mr. Peres says he is against such a move because it would only increase Mr. Arafat's popularity in the international community and among his own people.