Palestinians Urge Powell to Meet Arafat
A top Palestinian negotiator said on Saturday Palestinian officials would not meet Secretary of State Colin Powell during his visit next week if Powell chose not to meet Palestinian President Yasser Arafat.
"If Powell chooses not to meet Arafat, he will not meet any Palestinian official," senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told Reuters, adding that Arafat was the elected representative of the Palestinian people.
Powell is due to leave on a Middle East tour on Sunday night as part of U.S. attempts to craft a cease-fire between Israelis and Palestinians. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer told reporters on Friday that Powell had no plans "at this moment" to meet Arafat.
Erekat said he was responding to "trial balloons" concerning Powell's visit, which he said he hoped would not be used.
He also said he hoped Israel would have withdrawn its forces from the West Bank by the time Powell arrived, and said he was concerned for Arafat's safety after losing communications early on Saturday with the president, who is besieged at his headquarters in Ramallah.
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