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Sharon says Arafat 'hosting terror'

Both Israelis and Palestinians had indicated a willingness to observe the cease-fire
Truces remain in force  

SHIKMIM FARM, Israel (CNN) -- Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Friday that Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat is "hosting terror," posing what he called a "real problem" to the international coalition against terror being built by the United States.

But in the short term, Sharon said, if Arafat will honor his commitment to a cease-fire, Israel will meet with him about resuming negotiations, possibly as early as next week.

"We have a problem there. Altogether, I believe a country that will be joining the coalition, which I fully support, such a country should not support and should not shelter and not provide any means of training and so on to terrorist organizations," said Sharon. "We have to know one thing. Arafat is hosting, training, supporting, sponsoring terrorist organizations."

He said there is a "coalition of terror" made up of Arafat's presidential guard, Force 17, along with Islamic Jihad and Hamas.

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CNN exclusive interview: Sharon labels Arafat 'terrorist'  

"I'll tell you what should be done. I believe every country that would like to participate in this struggle against terror should get rid or arrest or dismantle or deport terrorist organizations," said Sharon. "Arafat is one of those. There is no doubt Arafat is a terrorist, hosting terrorist organizations.

"... I believe we can live with the Palestinian people. I hope the day will come that we can conduct with them peace negotiations. I never thought for one day that we wouldn't be living with Arabs. But we will not live with terror. ... The United States cannot, we cannot live with terror because we share the same values.

"I know it is going to be a very complicated struggle, a long struggle. But I believe one day it will be quiet ... we are on the side of those who decide to fight it. Terror is terror. There is no good terror. Murder is murder. There is no terror you can live with. Words and declarations are not important; deeds are important."

Asked about a request from the United States that Israel meet with Arafat, Sharon said, "We have learned a long time ago that one cannot get into compromise with terror; one cannot negotiate under fire. I hope that Arafat will understand that, stop the fire. And I believe that next week that will happen, I hope it will happen. Then it will be quiet, calm, and there will be the meeting there."

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said Friday he hoped the meeting would be held Sunday.

Palestinian sources said they expected Peres would meet with key Arafat aides Saeb Erakat and Abu Ala on Saturday to prepare for the session.

Asked if the United States was pressuring Israel in order to make it easier to build a coalition for its war on terror, Sharon said Israel is not being pressured.

"We are not under any pressure from the United States. I think, one cannot surrender to terror. What do we ask? We ask one thing. We want to live a peaceful life here," said Sharon. "We are ready to go. We are ready to help. One must look and understand that Chairman Arafat conducts terror. His strategy is a strategy of terror."

Asked if he thought there was any link between the conflict in the Middle East and the terror attacks on the United States, Sharon said no, that he believed the terrorists were targeting the American way of life.

"I think the attack on the United States is an attack on the democratic values, liberal way of life, freedom of speech. It is an attempt to impose on us democracies that way of life they would like to impose upon us," he said.

Earlier, Israel's security Cabinet confirmed that it will not lift its policy of restraint, despite the death of an Israeli woman who was shot near Bethlehem in the West Bank.

Arafat and Sharon both ordered cease-fire measures on Tuesday.

Israeli officials called off offensive operations against the Palestinians after Arafat declared a cease-fire and said he was ordering his forces not to fire on Israelis even in self-defense.

The Palestinian group "Al-Aqsa Martyr's Battalion," which is associated with Arafat's Fatah faction, claimed responsibility for Thursday's drive-by shooting that left Sarit Amrani, 26, dead near the Jewish settlement of Tekoa.

"I am very sorry the Palestinian Authority did not stand by its commitments," Sharon told Reuters news agency. "This cease-fire was respected for a few hours -- 20 hours -- and then there was an outbreak of acts of terror."

Palestinian officials said they regretted the incident and were making the "maximum" effort to ensure the cease-fire held, according to Reuters.

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