Twenty-Five Palestinians Arrested in West Bank Village; U.S. Dismisses French Initiative

Published February 9th, 2002 - 02:00 GMT

Palestinian sources reported that Israeli troops arrested twenty-five Palestinians early Saturday morning during houses to house searches in the West Bank village of Tamoun which is located near the West Bank city of Nablus.  

 

The arrests are part of an operation started a day earlier in retaliation for an attack on a nearby Jewish settlement on Wednesday night that left three dead.  

 

On Friday, Israeli troops and tanks imposed a blockade on Nablus and on Tamoun, some five kilometers from Hamra, the Jewish settlement that was attacked.  

 

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said on Israeli radio that the Tamoun operation was launched "because there were a number of alerts on attacks being prepared by extremists in this area and they must be prevented."  

 

Three Palestinians were injured in exchanges of fire Friday, in Tamoun the village. Four pipes stuffed with explosives were thrown at the Israeli forces, causing no injuries, according to Israeli army reports cited by AFP.  

 

French Ideas 

 

Meanwhile, the United States dismissed French ideas to break the Middle East peace stalemate, emphasizing the need to stick to plans already on the table and to maintain pressure on Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.  

 

"Without saying something particular about these ideas, I think we've always felt introducing other elements that divert attention from that focus don't really move the situation forward," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said. "The steps that need to be taken now are steps by Chairman Arafat to stop the violence," he added. 

 

Boucher declared the U.S administration was sticking to two plans worked out last year by CIA Director George Tenet and former US senator George Mitchell to end the violence, adopt confidence-building measures and restart the peace process.  

 

"There's been a lot of international support for that course," he said. "So I think we'd say that remains our focus and that's where we think the international focus should remain."  

 

France has suggested holding elections in the Palestinian territories to reinforce Arafat's legitimacy as the leader of the Palestinian Authority as part of a larger initiative to ease tensions. 

 

According to AFP, the elections would also serve to reaffirm the Palestinians' commitment to the peace process and thereby reassure skeptical Israelis, according to an unofficial document circulated in late January by French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine.  

 

This French plan has not been warmly greeted, according to Boucher. "I don't see anything that indicates the European Union, for example, has endorsed it," he said, adding: "I don't think the Palestinians exactly jumped on" the election proposal, either. 

 

Boucher declined to comment further, but a senior State Department official said Vedrine had been "shopping the election idea around for a while." (Albawaba.com) 

© 2002 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)


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