Sharon slams Arafat, rejects Blair request to let Palestinians attend conference

Published January 12th, 2003 - 02:00 GMT

Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on Sunday rejected a written request by his British peer, Tony Blair, to lift a ban on Palestinian officials attending a Mideast conference in London this week, an Israeli official said.  


The British ambassador to Israel, Sherard Cowper-Coles, delivered Blair's letter to Sharon in a meeting at the prime minister's office Sunday, said Raanan Gissin, a Sharon adviser.  


In his letter, Blair asked Sharon to allow the Palestinians to attend the two-day conference during which Palestinian reforms and means of ending nearly 28 months of Israeli-Palestinian violence are to be discussed.  


"We can't allow Arafat to have another lease on life. That will just be the wrong decision. Arafat can't be the one to lead the Palestinians, not to peace and not on reforms," Gissin said, according to AP.  


The Palestinian delegates will take part in the conference by telephone. Those participating include Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo, Planning Minister Nabil Shaath, Local Affairs Minister Saeb Erekat and Finance Minister Salam Fayad.  


"The London talks are a very important session and the world has seen the Israeli measures against the Palestinian delegation, which are a severe challenge to all the world efforts and I think it's a great step by Britain, which is always playing an important role in the political arena," Shaath told reporters in Gaza on Sunday. 


Earlier, Sharon slammed Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, saying the latter's call to end attacks ahead of elections shows that the killing of Israelis is done for political considerations, Israel Radio reported.  


Sharon, speaking at the opening of the weekly Cabinet meting, said that Arafat's comments show that he is in control of "terror."  


"Prior to the elections, long before the elections, it's possible to murder. Close to the elections, it's best to stop and after the elections, it's desirable to continue," said Sharon. ( 

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