- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 15, 2002

JERUSALEM Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon urged Palestinians yesterday to overthrow their leadership, calling it a "despotic regime that is leading you from failure to failure."
Mr. Sharon's unyielding stance with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has won the broad endorsement of President Bush, who also has called for Mr. Arafat to be replaced.
But Mr. Sharon, who this week makes his seventh White House visit in 18 months, could face hard questions from a U.S. administration that has chastised him for failing to follow through with pledges to ease blockades and curfews imposed on many Palestinian cities.
In the West Bank after nightfall yesterday, Israeli forces fatally shot two Palestinians, Palestinian security officials said. The officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the two were members of the violent Islamic Jihad. The Israeli military had no immediate comment.
Mr. Sharon, who arrives in Washington today and meets Mr. Bush tomorrow, has defended the security measures as essential to prevent, or at least limit, Palestinian suicide bombings and shooting attacks.
"Your terrible suffering is needless," Mr. Sharon said, addressing his remarks to Palestinians in a speech that inaugurated the winter session of Israel's parliament.
Mr. Sharon said "murderous terror gangs" have taken over the Palestinian territories with Mr. Arafat's encouragement and consent. "Change the despotic regime that is leading you from failure to failure, from tragedy to tragedy."
The Israeli leader has spoken in favor of exiling Mr. Arafat and has sent Israeli troops to the doorstep of Mr. Arafat's offices three times this year. But Mr. Sharon has stopped short of kicking out the Palestinian leader, with the United States and the Israeli security services arguing against such a move.
No serious challenger has arisen to take on Mr. Arafat, who since December has rarely left his battered headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
Palestinians deeply distrust Mr. Sharon, and officials were sharply critical of his latest call to oust Mr. Arafat.
"This is arrogant and shameless," Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said of Mr. Sharon's speech. "As far as the Palestinian people are concerned, they don't need to listen to Sharon's advice they need to save themselves from Sharon's bullets and bombs."
During the weekend, the U.S. ambassador to Israel, Daniel Kurtzer, sent a strongly worded letter to Mr. Sharon calling on him to take steps to lessen the hardships imposed on Palestinians, a diplomatic source said.
They include withdrawing troops from at least one of the six West Bank cities occupied by Israeli forces, easing restrictions on the movements of Palestinians and handing over hundreds of millions of dollars in Palestinian tax revenues that Israel has withheld during the past two years of Middle East fighting.
In Bethlehem yesterday, Palestinians buried a militant killed by a booby-trapped public telephone. Palestinians blamed Israel for the death of Mohammed Abayat on Sunday.
Israel neither confirmed nor denied involvement. Two other members of the Abayat clan have been killed in the past two years in operations the Palestinians have blamed on Israel.
In another development, Mohammed Dahlan, Mr. Arafat's security adviser, offered his resignation, a Palestinian official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.


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