PARIS — The 15 European Union nations collectively protested Israel's attack on Yasser Arafat's West Bank headquarters Friday, with Italy pressing Israel to guarantee the Palestinian Authority president's safety.
The EU also called on Israel to withdraw its troops from the West Bank city of Ramallah, where Arafat's complex is located.
At the same time, the EU urged the Palestinian Authority to halt the "spiral of violence" and punish those responsible for the recent string of attacks on Israelis.
Spain, which holds the rotating EU presidency, said Israel's fight against terrorism and its response to recent attacks must be compatible with safeguarding the Palestinian Authority and its president--"the legitimate representatives of the Palestinian people."
In France, President Jacques Chirac said that "any attack on [Arafat's] ability to act, or on his person, would be extremely serious."
The French leader also urged Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to "immediately take all measures to stop the violence."
"Nothing can excuse or justify blind terrorism against civilians," Chirac told France Info radio. "Everyone knows there cannot be a military solution to the conflict in the Middle East."
French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine accused Israel of obsessing over Arafat and trying to "asphyxiate" him.
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's government asked Israel to guarantee Arafat's security and respect his elected position.
It also said it had made a new appeal to the Palestinian Authority to prevent acts of terrorism against unarmed civilians and to dismantle terrorist structures.
Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou condemned the Israeli military action, saying his country had "ties, both friendly and personal, with President Arafat."
"For us, Arafat is not an enemy, and beyond this he is also a personal friend," said Papandreou, who also condemned the terror attacks on Israelis.
About 1,500 Greek and Palestinian protesters chanting, "Freedom for Palestine!" and banging steel drums gathered outside the Israeli Embassy in Athens.