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Besieged Arafat Meets With European Visitors

January 20, 2002|From Associated Press

RAMALLAH, West Bank — Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat called for international intervention to ease tensions Saturday in the wake of Israel's demolition of the Voice of Palestine broadcasting building.

"The current situation is very dangerous," Arafat told journalists at his Ramallah compound, which has been surrounded by Israeli tanks since Friday.

"I call on the international community to make an immediate move to rescue the situation before it explodes," he said.

Arafat met at his besieged compound with a number of foreign visitors, including Italian lawmakers and the outgoing Anglican archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey.

Carey urged Israelis and Palestinians to return to negotiations. "Religious leaders have a part to play in this," he told reporters. "Religion is not only part of the answer but also part of the problem."

The Israeli moves are part of a tough response to a Thursday night attack by a Palestinian gunman who killed six people at a bat mitzvah before he was shot to death.

Palestinian Broadcasting Corp. chief Radwan abu Ayash rejected an Israeli charge that Voice of Palestine is "a center of incitement against the state of Israel, its citizens and against the Jewish people."

"This is not a [Osama] Bin Laden training center. . . . This is something cultural, civilian and human," Abu Ayash said.

The Paris-based media freedom advocacy group Reporters Without Borders said Saturday that it had written to Israel's defense minister to protest the destruction.

"This action is totally unacceptable, no matter what one might think of the content of the programs broadcast by the Voice of Palestine," the group quoted its secretary-general, Robert Menard, as saying.

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