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Israeli Cabinet Votes in Favor of U.S. Compromise

Aired April 28, 2002 - 09:16   ET

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


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: A little bit of Breaking News coming in from Israel. We've been telling you all about the Israeli cabinet meeting this morning. A couple of big issues that they are considering, number one is the U.N. group that is trying to investigate what might have happened in the Jenin Refugee Camp, that issue still outstanding.

But meanwhile, we've learned that the cabinet has approved by a vote of 17-8, to adopt a U.S. compromise, which might help ease that siege on Yasser Arafat's compound in Ramallah. Pivoting around the whole debate here has been the fate of people who would be linked to the assassination of an Israel cabinet minister, tourism minister, last October.

There have been four suspects who have been tried in an ad hoc trial inside that compound. The question was, who would handle custody of those four people. The Bush proposal was that U.S. or British forces would do just that.

For more on this, we turn now to CNN's Jerrold Kessel, joining us live from Jerusalem -- Jerrold.

JERROLD KESSEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Miles, a dramatic decision by the Israeli government just minutes ago, and it could have really far reaching ramifications for this, not only for the Israeli-Palestinian confrontation but perhaps for U.S. involvement in it.

Because what has happened over the last several minutes, we've had a decision from Ariel Sharon's government here in Jerusalem, saying that they accept. The vote was 17 in favor, eight against, a proposal put forward by President Bush last night.

A dramatic intervention you could see it as by the U.S. President in the telephone call to Ariel Sharon last night, as you were saying, proposing that either U.S. or British jailers, troops or what have you should take custody within a Palestinian prison of the men whom Israel wanted to put on trial within Israel, and who are now holed up in Yasser Arafat's Mukata (ph) Headquarters in Ramallah.

And the reason why this could be significant on the one hand is it could be the way out of this searing siege, if you like, that has been imposed on Yasser Arafat for more than a month now by the Israeli Prime Minister, in which he has had no access other than to specific people coming into his compound. He's also (inaudible). O'BRIEN: All right, I think we're having some audio problems with Jerrold Kessel. We apologize for that. The general gist of it, though, is that this very important decision has just been made by the Israeli cabinet.

In a vote of 17-8, they have embraced a Bush proposal, which in essence puts four suspects, linked to the assassination of an Israeli cabinet minister into the custody of U.S. or British troops or some other authority, thus paving the way perhaps, a let up on the siege of Yasser Arafat's compound in Ramallah, perhaps leading to some sort of easing of tensions in the Middle East.

That probably is a bit in the speculative realm right now, but nevertheless, a bit of a break to report to you. We'll send it back to Kyra.

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