Arafat: Palestinians Ready for Peace Talks under Bush Administration
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat said Saturday he was ready to negotiate with Israel under the administration of US President-elect George W. Bush if an accord was not reached before Bill Clinton leaves office January 20.
"We will continue (with talks) at the same rhythm as with Clinton, who wants to seal something before his departure. We will continue with Bush," Arafat said, stressing his side was "doing its best" to reach a peace deal before January 20.
"We are deploying all our efforts (to reach an accord) because we do not want to be accused of stalling," Arafat told journalists before leaving Oman after a one-day visit.
Arafat, accompanied by top adviser Nabil Abu Rudeina and Palestine Liberation Organization number two Mahmud Abbas, held talks Saturday with Oman's Sultan Qaboos on the situation in the Palestinian territories and the last-ditch US peace plan.
Arafat informed Sultan Qaboos "of the situation in the occupied territories and the efforts deployed to save the peace process," the official ONA news agency said.
Clinton is hoping to clinch a peace deal before he leaves office, and both Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have accepted in principle a set of compromises he drafted.
But the two sides remain sharply divided over the status of holy sites in Jerusalem and the fate of 3.7 million Palestinian refugees and have expressed doubt about reaching an agreement in the next two weeks.
In Ramallah, Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo on Saturday denounced last-ditch US attempts to broker a peace deal, accusing Clinton's administration of favoring Israel.
"This is an attempt to get concessions from us on our rights over Jerusalem and the mosque compound, on refugees' right of return and on our sovereignty over the territories" captured by Israel in 1967, Abed Rabbo told Al-Ayam newspaper.
Since the Intifada, or uprising against Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories, erupted at the end of September, almost 370 people have been killed, the vast majority of them Palestinian -- MUSCAT (AFP)
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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