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Palestinians warn of 'explosion' in peace process

Netanyahu, Clinton to meet Monday on crisis

April 5, 1997
Web posted at: 4:52 p.m. EST (2152 GMT)

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Cabinet warned Saturday of a "comprehensive explosion" erupting in the troubled Middle East if tensions do not ease soon.

The Cabinet also issued harsh statements toward the United States and U.S. President Clinton, pointing out that the U.S. has twice vetoed U.N. resolutions condemning Israel's settlement policy.


"The current situation could lead to
a comprehensive explosion . . ."

- From the statement


The comments came as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prepared to head to Washington on Monday for talks with Clinton on forging a new peace initiative. The Cabinet urged Clinton to force Israel to stop construction on what it considers Palestinian land.

"The current situation could lead to a comprehensive explosion resulting from the great Israeli pressures on our people in security, military, economic and humanitarian spheres," the statement said.

Protest

Supporters of Arafat's Fatah movement marched through the streets in Gaza, chanting anti-Israel statements and carrying a mock coffin that symbolized what they called a dead peace process. The students burned the coffin in effigy. (Clashes in the West Bank continue - 1.2M/31 sec. QuickTime movie or 3M/31 sec. large frame QuickTime movie) movie icon

Two sides trade barbs

Arafat spokesman Marwan Kanafani also said Arafat drafted a letter to Clinton in which the PLO leader outlined key points for a U.S.-brokered peace initiative, including:

  • Settlement construction halt
  • Recognition of the land-for-peace principle
  • Affirmation that previous agreements must be carried out

Clinton has told Arafat that the United States is willing to move forward with a new peace initiative and that he would coordinate with the Palestinian leader before making it public, said chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat.

Erakat told Voice of Palestine radio the Palestinians did not yet know what the main points of the American initiative were.

David Bar-Illan, Netanyahu's communications director, denounced the Cabinet's statements, saying such statements would not promote peace.

Clashes

"It's regrettable that the language of threats and violence has now entered the vocabulary of Palestinian Authority leaders as Netanyahu is going to Washington," he said.

He added that Netanyahu will relay to Clinton Israeli demands that the Palestinian Authority crack down on terrorism as a condition for resuming peace talks.

The peace process broke down last month when Israel moved forward with plans to build a new Jewish settlement in traditionally Arab East Jerusalem, triggering weeks of violence in the region.

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright stepped up pressure on Israel Thursday when she told Israeli Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai in Washington that she was concerned about Jewish settlement expansion at a time when tensions are so widespread, Israel army radio said.

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