PA may cancel Christmas celebrations; Report: Sharon refuses to declare he will not expel Palestinians to Jordan
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat expressed Wednesday his outrage at Israel's military operations in Bethlehem and announced Christmas celebrations in the holy southern West Bank city were cancelled.
"There won't be any Christmas," he told reporters in Ramallah, describing Israel's recent closure of Bethlehem as an "international crime". "These (Israeli) measures mean that there is no Christmas this year," Arafat said.
Also on Wednesday, the PA issued a statement saying the Israeli army had demolished eight houses in the Bethlehem area in the past 10 days. The statement described the Israeli closure of Bethlehem as a grave violation of the freedom of worship. The PA appealed to Pope John Paul II to intervene, and also urged the United Nations and the international community to condemn the Israeli invasion of Bethlehem, and to put pressure on Israel to withdraw from the city.
Meanwhile, an Israeli daily reported on Thursday that Israel’s Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had rejected Jordan's request to issue a public declaration opposing the "transfer" of Palestinians from the West Bank.
Recently, Jordanian officials have displayed concern about the possibility that Israel might exploit an American attack on Iraq by expelling masses of Palestinians from the West Bank to Jordan. According to Haaretz, top Jordanian officials have raised this concern in talks with Israeli and American counterparts. The Jordanians asked for assurances that Israel will refrain from implementing these policies.
According to the report, Jordan's Foreign Minister Marwan Muashar raised the issue last September at the United Nations, in talks with Israel’s former foreign minister Shimon Peres. The Jordanians asked that the declaration come directly from the prime minister.
Peres promised Muashar that he would speak with Sharon about the issue. The Jordanian request was delivered through other channels as well. The request reached Sharon, but he rejected it. (Albawaba.com)
© 2002 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)