Arafat Blasts Expansion of Israeli Settlement at Start of Saudi Visit
Palestinian President Yasser Arafat accused Israel of lacking commitment to the peace process and renewed a pledge to declare independence on September 13, at the start of a visit to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday.
"The announcement that 187 new homes are to be built in (the West Bank settlement of) Maale Adumim ... proves once more that Israel lacks seriousness in implementing the accords which have been signed," he said.
Israeli anti-settlement group Peace Now disclosed that the Israeli government had issued a tender for new homes in Maale Adumim, a Jewish settlement near Jerusalem, the first since Prime Minister Ehud Barak declared a freeze last year.
It said the housing ministry tender covered 174 housing units.
Arafat, in an interview with the Saudi newspaper Okaz, also said "an independent Palestinian state will be announced on September 13 ... and to do so we need to intensify consultations with our brothers in Saudi Arabia".
The Palestinian president was to meet King Fahd and Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdel Aziz to discuss the peace process and Israel's settlement activity.
Israel and the Palestinians embarked on a fresh round of talks in the southern Israel resort of Eilat on Sunday in a bid to reach a framework accord on a final peace settlement by mid-May -- JEDDAH (AFP).
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