- The Washington Times - Monday, January 7, 2002

JERUSALEM Israel accused Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat yesterday of plotting “the next wave of terror,” displaying 50 tons of missiles, mortars and mines seized during a commando operation at sea. Amid recriminations, a U.S. envoy wrapped up talks with no agreement for a formal Mideast truce.
Standing before row upon row of the confiscated weaponry, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Mr. Arafat was directly involved in the $100 million arms shipment, accusing him of personally ordering the weapons from Iran and a ship from Lebanon to carry them.
Mr. Sharon was joined by senior Israeli security officials for the nationally televised event an evidence of the importance the government has placed on the weapons cache, laid out in neat rows yesterday at a naval yard in the Red Sea port of Eilat.
There were machine guns, mines, mortars, Katyusha rockets, grenades, AK-47 assault rifles and more than a half-million rounds of ammunition for various guns, all of which Israel says were on their way from Iran to the Gaza Strip.
The ship “is probably Iraqi-owned,” the London-based Lloyd’s List said. In an article today, the newspaper said an Iraqi national, Ali Mohammed Abbas, bought the vessel, then known as Rim K, from a Lebanese shipping company on Aug. 31. It was re-registered in Tonga, an island nation in South Pacific, on Sept. 12 as Karine A, Agence France-Presse quoted the newspaper as reporting.
The Palestinian leadership has denied any connection to the weapons or the ship. In a statement yesterday, it said it “condemns this operation and condemns the Israeli attempt to accuse the Palestinian Authority of being involved in this.”
On Thursday, Israeli commandos stormed the Karine A ship in the Red Sea about 300 miles south of Eilat. While the pre-dawn raid occurred in international waters, no one has claimed ownership of the boat or its consignment.
A U.S. official in Washington, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said it was possible the weapons were headed for Hezbollah, the militant Lebanese group, or Hamas, the extremist Palestinian movement.
A Hezbollah official in Beirut said no members of the guerrilla group were on board the ship. He declined to say whether any of the weapons were intended for the movement.
The dispute over the massive weapons cache overshadowed the mission by Gen. Anthony Zinni, the U.S. envoy who ended four days of talks last evening with Israeli and Palestinian leaders without signs of a breakthrough.
The period of relative calm that preceded Gen. Zinni’s visit prevailed during his stay. But he was not able to persuade the sides to begin implementation of a cease-fire plan drafted last year by CIA Director George Tenet.
No Israelis have been killed in more than three weeks, the longest such stretch since the Palestinian uprising began more than 15 months ago. And the Palestinians say they are making a good-faith effort to halt attacks against Israel.
In an early morning operation yesterday, about 200 Palestinian police swept into the Jenin refugee camp in northern West Bank and arrested six members of the militant Islamic Jihad.
Among those detained was Ali Saffouri, described by Palestinian security officials as the second most-wanted man among 33 suspected militants whose arrest Israel has demanded.
Israel says the Palestinians have arrested only about 10 persons on the list, and those detained were not being interrogated.
After meeting yesterday with Israel’s Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, Gen. Zinni appeared to agree with the Israeli demand that more needed to be done on the security front.
“It is a long road and a long path,” he said. “It has to start with security and it has to start with countering terrorism.”
A statement by the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv said that at a meeting with Israeli and Palestinian security officials last night Gen. Zinni set both sides a number of goals on security cooperation and was hoping to see progress when he returned.

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