- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 1, 2003

GAZA, March 1 (UPI) — Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat accused Israel of inciting the United States to go to war against Iraq, in a speech Saturday transmitted from his Gaza headquarters to the Arab Summit in the Egyptian report of Sharm El-Sheikh.

The Israeli government "is the first inciter for the war against Iraq," Arafat said.

"This Israeli government is putting now its final touches of the scenarios of its role and the goals it wants to achieve out of the war against Iraq," Arafat said. "Israel considers the war against Iraq as its war against the whole Arab world," as well as a war against the Palestinian people.

The weekend's summit was the second Arafat was unable to attend because of Israel's decision in December 2001 to confine the Palestinian Authority chairman to his Ramallah headquarters, known as Al Muqata'a.

Palestinian Authority Planning Minister Nabil Shaath said Arafat didn't attend the summit because there are no guarantees he will be able to return to the Palestinian territories.

However, while the previous Arab Summit focused on Arafat's plight as his compound remained besieged by Israeli forces, the impending crisis in Iraq has cornered the summit's debate. Arafat has fallen out of favor and the the United States — along with Israel — has been calling for serious reform in the Palestinian Authority, including a change in leadership.

In his speech Arafat accused Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's government of looking to use the war on Iraq to further its gains against the Palestinians.

"Israel wants to use the war against Iraq to escalate its military actions against the Palestinian people, expand settlements, undermine the Palestinian Authority and go for transferring the Palestinians under the threat of weapons," said Arafat.

He said that many members of the Israeli government who have the control now are those who murdered his historic peace partner Yitzhak Rabin in November, 1997, when he was assassinated by a Jewish extremist.

Arafat announced that although the Palestinians accepted all the signed peace agreements and international documents and reports, "Israel had undermined all of it, even the temporary security deals, and continued its army aggression."

"Instead of resuming the peace process, withdrawing its forces from our territories, and establish a Palestinian state, Israel carried out the toughest military operations and used all kinds of illegal weapons," said Arafat.

Arafat said that Israel rejected the Arab peace initiative and insisted that it "continue its war against our Palestinian people under the protection of some international powers (referring to the United States) into the Security Council."

"The Security Council is standing disabled before this protection power to implement the spirit of the United Nations charter and impose economical, political or military sanctions on Israel," said Arafat.

Arafat finished his speech by calling upon the Arab leaders to continue supporting the Palestinians, politically, diplomatically and financially "in order to be able to confront this wild Israeli attack on them."

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