Kuwaiti emir Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad al-Sabah refused to meet Palestinian president Yasser Arafat at the funeral of Syrian president Hafez Assad, a newspaper reported Thursday.
"Arafat accompanied Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh in a bid to meet the emir, but his guards stopped the Palestinian leader and asked him to go back. Saleh, who had called for the meeting, was allowed to proceed," Al-Rai Al-Aam said.
The paper said Arafat made the attempt as Arab and world leaders were in the main hall of the Republican Palace in Damascus waiting to pay their last respects to the late president on Tuesday.
"The emiri guard and members of the royal court blocked Arafat's way as he walked with President Saleh," the paper said.
During his brief visit to Damascus to offer Kuwaits condolences, Sheikh Jaber met with Saleh as well as Sudanese President Omar Hassan Bashir for the first time since the 1990 Iraqi invasion of the emirate.
Kuwait normalized ties with several Arab countries that it accused of backing the Iraqi occupation, but has remained chilly towards repeated overtures from the Palestinians, insisting on an apology from Arafat before any reconciliation.
The only public contact between Arafat and a senior Kuwaiti official took place last month in Sanaa when he embraced Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah and shook his hand.
Sheikh Sabah described the handshake as "unavoidable" - KUAWIT CITY (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)