PA says Tel Aviv attack serves Sharon interests; U.K.: Israel likely not to change decision on London conference
In response to the Tel Aviv bombings, Israel barred a Palestinian delegation from attending a Mideast conference in London and decided to close three Palestinian universities Monday.
The Palestinian representatives planned to leave for the conference that was to be held Jan. 13 and 14 to discuss a possible truce and Palestinian reform. Foreign ministers of Britain, Greece, Jordan, Saudi Arabia were to have attended, while Israel was not invited.
Despite criticism of the ban by British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said during a hospital visit to victims of Sunday's attack that peace talks could only resume after he had defeated Palestinian "terror."
"I'm sure that this time we will defeat terror and after we stop it, we will sit and talk peace," he said. "But the first thing is to defeat terror."
And Washington refused to criticize the Israeli decision, with a White House spokesman saying President George W. Bush believes "Israel has a right to defend itself in a variety of ways, but Israel needs to always be mindful of the consequences of its right to self-defense."
On his part, Straw said he "greatly regrets" the Israeli decision. He urged the Israeli government to think again about preventing the Palestinian delegation from attending the planned peace conference. However, Straw said he did not expected it and greatly regrets it.
Israel's foreign minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said "the Palestinian leadership does not need to meet abroad to close down suicide kindergarten camps to stop incitement to murder and to fight terrorism.
"This they can do in Ramallah, right here, right now. Until the Palestinian leadership does so, it must be given no quarter and no legitimacy in the free world."
Palestinian information minister Yasser Abed Rabbo said the double suicide bombing had provided Sharon with an excuse to scotch the London talks.
"Sharon wants to use what happened yesterday to cover his real strategy of destroying Palestinian society and the Palestinian Authority," said the minister, according to AFP.
"The operation was very useful to Sharon," he said, adding that the Palestinians would investigate who was behind it.
Similar comments were made by Mohammed Dahlan, a senior figure in the Palestinian Authority. He said Monday Palestinian suicide attacks in Israel were playing into the hands of Sharon.
Dahlan told Reuters he feared a continuation of such attacks would undermine planned talks between Palestinian faction leaders in Cairo.
"Whatever the identity of the group behind the attack, the attack only served Sharon...ahead of Israel's election," Dahlan stated.
"I do not think that the (Tel Aviv) attack will affect the dialogue in Cairo but we should avoid similar mistakes," he said. Asked if further attacks like it would jeopardize the Cairo initiative, he said: "Yes, it will kill it." (Albawaba.com)
© 2003 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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