Arafat rejects Bush call for new Palestinian leadership; Mubarak says speech ''totally balanced''
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat on Tuesday rebuffed U.S. President George W. Bush's call for a new Palestinian leadership, saying it was up to Palestinians to decide the matter in elections.
The 72-year-old leader was speaking after Bush made clear in a speech on Monday he had written off Arafat as part of any peace settlement, saying Palestinians must pick leaders "not compromised by terror" to achieve a state alongside Israel.
Asked for a response to Bush's call for a new leadership, Arafat told reporters: "This is what my people will decide. They are the only ones who can determine this."
Arafat said elections were necessary but he had not announced a date when they will be held. "We will respect all the principles the Palestinian people support."
He denied that Bush's remarks were directed against him. "He spoke about a Palestinian state and elections, and we consider our state will be democratic with the coming elections..."
Arafat told French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin he would call for presidential and legislative elections in January, the French official said. "He has just confirmed to me the dates of presidential and legislative elections in January and local elections in March," de Villepin told reporters after talks with Arafat at his West Bank HQ in Ramallah.
Meanwhile, Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak called Bush's Middle East policy speech "totally balanced," the state MENA news agency said.
However, Mubarak rejected the widely held notion Bush had called for the ouster of Arafat as a condition for moving forward with the creation of a Palestinian state within three years.
"The Palestinian Authority supported this declaration and if it does so, we do also, since it is totally balanced," Mubarak said at a military ceremony. "We are waiting for a visit by Secretary of State Colin Powell to the region to see if it will be possible to put this statement into practice."
"This speech contains some good ideas," he said, but added that some of its points "must be clarified." "I do not see in this speech the removal of Arafat, but a demand for reforms of the Palestinian Authority and the formation of a new administration." (Albawaba.com)
© 2002 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)