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Palestinian Observer to U.N. Nasser Al-Kidwa Discusses Escalating Mideast Tensions

Aired October 12, 2000 - 10:19 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: And now we go back to the situation in the Mideast, what is happening in the town of Ramallah and also Gaza.

To get a Palestinian perspective on what is happening with the tensions escalating. We bring in Nasser Al-Kidwa, who is joining us from the United Nations. He is the Palestinian observer.

Mr. Kidwa, thank you for joining us here today.

NASSER AL-KIDWA, PALESTINIAN OBSERVER TO U.N.: Thank you.

KAGAN: What can the Palestinian do here? I know this is a very tense, emotional situation, but what can the Palestinians do to help ease tensions and get back to more peaceful and safe situations for the folks who are living there?

AL-KIDWA: I think it's the Israeli side who has to do a lot. What the Israeli government did just now is tantamount to declaring an all-out war against the Palestinian population, which is already under occupation. The Israeli government is, effectively, destroying any possibility of bringing the situation back under control, which -- taking the whole situation to a new level.

I mean, and this might even prove what we have been saying all along about the intentions of the Israeli government.

KAGAN: Clearly, the Israelis do have to do a lot, but to borrow from an American expression, it does take two to tango. And, for the safety of the Palestinian people, don't you think that the Palestinians need to do something to help bring the situation under control, citing what happened earlier today, when you have a mob situation ending in the death of two Israeli soldiers?

AL-KIDWA: I'm not aware of the details of what happened today. However, I can tell you this. In spite of our pain and anger, including the anger as a result of the additional four Palestinians who were killed yesterday in spite of the relative calm; nevertheless, I can say that killing prisoners is not reflective of the Palestinian values and the Palestinian tradition.

However, before we tango with the Israelis, we have to at least be alive. The Israelis have to stop killing us so we can remain alive, we can stand and maybe then we can tango with the Israeli side. KAGAN: And I didn't mean to make light of what is a very serious situation, of course.

Talking about Yasser Arafat, there's been some who have questioned his authority at this point. Do you think he has credibility among the Palestinian people? Are they listening to him, or have the emotions and the bitterness escalated to a point where they wouldn't even listen to him if he called for calm and peace?

AL-KIDWA: Of course he has the authority. However, the matter is not the authority per se. The Palestinian people are not (SPEAKING IN ARABIC) -- I mean, they don't start doing something at orders; they don't stop doing something at orders, especially when this something is in reaction to a huge use of lethal power, of killing, of injuring by a huge army in front of them.

So what we need to see is the different Israeli behavior. We are seeing the opposite now, unfortunately. If the Israeli change drastically; if they stop shooting at the Palestinian people; if they stop injuring and killing, then it will be possible for the Palestinian leadership and possible for President Arafat to make a difference.

KAGAN: Mr. Arafat's status in the way he's seen in this country has changed quite a bit over the last 10 years; 10 years ago he was seen by many as simply a terrorist, now he has the status of a statesman. Much of that has happened through the work and through the relationship he has with President Clinton.

Some have suggested that Mr. Arafat owes Mr. Clinton the courtesy, and that he owes him the phone call and the acceptance and to work with him.

Do you think that he's doing enough out of respect of that relationship?

AL-KIDWA: If we are talking about the past, some, as you said, maybe have considered Mr. Arafat as a terrorist. The overwhelming majority of the people of the world, though, considered him as the leader of the Palestinian people who is fighting for its freedom.

Now, when it comes to the relationship with President Clinton, the whole Palestinian people respect the efforts of the president with regard to trying to reach a peace settlement in the Middle East. However, I don't think it's a matter of owing anything, one to the other. I think it's a matter of mutual respect among the leaders and it's a matter of working together in order to achieve the necessary steps towards peace in the Middle East.

KAGAN: And, from the actions that we've seen today that have happened in Ramallah and Gaza, do you fear that this has escalated to a point of no return?

AL-KIDWA: We were responding positively to the American efforts and the efforts of the secretary-general of the United Nations, as well as other international dignitaries. It has been the Israeli side who took the extremely dangerous step today. As I told you earlier, this is tantamount to declaring war -- over all war against the whole Palestinian population, and they have immediately to rescind this kind of action before we can go further.

KAGAN: Nasser Al-Kidwa, Palestinian observer to the United Nations. Thank you for your time, sir -- Bill.

AL-KIDWA: Thank you.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Daryn, one story in the exterior of all this happens to be the world markets. They react in times like these; and no where is there a bigger player in the world than the U.S. market and the Dow Jones industrial average.

Right now, as this is happening overseas, we're seeing a major dip in the Dow Jones industrial average, upper-left-hand corner there, next to the INDU: now down over 300 points to 307. Now 305 to 10,106.

On the Nasdaq market, not quite as severe. Down 57 points on the tech-heavy Nasdaq. We will certainly watch this and see the fallout that remains from reaction from around the world and especially here in the U.S. as it relates to world markets.

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