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Palestinian State a Must, Arafat Says

Mideast: International and regional security rest on independence, the leader says.

January 01, 2002|From Reuters

GAZA CITY — Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat said on Monday, 37 years after his Fatah movement launched a war on Israel, that a state for his people is fundamental to regional and international stability.

Arafat's speech came against the backdrop of a 15-month-old uprising against Israeli occupation that has cost more than 1,000 lives, most of them Palestinian.

"The Palestinian state, with holy Jerusalem as its capital, is not only a condition for peace but a fundamental basis for international and regional security and stability," Arafat said in the speech, which was broadcast on Palestinian media.

He said that a Palestinian state should be established on land captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East War and that Palestinians are more determined than ever to achieve it.

"Some in Israel still do not want to see this fact, and they see in the tank, the chopper and the bulldozer the only ways to deal with the Palestinian people," he said.

Israel's killing of six Palestinians in the Gaza Strip on Sunday drew threats of revenge from militants who have defied Arafat's Dec. 16 call to halt attacks on Israelis, but the Palestinian leader said peace is the best choice.

"The Palestinian people who chose peace as a strategic choice stand today on solid ground; they will not be weakened and will not be humiliated, and their rights will not be wasted as long as we have blood pulsing through our veins," he said.

Arafat's Fatah movement launched its first armed attack against an Israeli target on Jan. 1, 1965.

In the name of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Arafat signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1993. But the treaty has so far given Palestinians control only of parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and not a full state.

"We will pursue the firm hope in our hearts of raising a Palestinian flag over the walls, the churches and mosques of Jerusalem, capital of our independent Palestine," Arafat said.

Thousands of people demonstrated to support Arafat in Gaza and in the West Bank city of Ramallah, where he has his headquarters and where has been blocked in by Israel, which says he must hand over militants who killed an Israeli Cabinet minister.

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