Chirac Urges Arabs To Swear Off Hatred

RAMALLAH, West Bank -- French President Jacques Chirac, in the first address by a foreign head of state to the Palestinian legislature, on Wednesday urged Palestinians to shun violence as they seek a state of their own.


"In rejecting violence as a way of expressing your claims, you will be faithful to the action pursued indefatigably by President [Yasser] Arafat," Chirac told the 88-member assembly.


"Together we must fight the temptation of violence that can always reappear at any moment," Chirac told the legislature in the self-ruled town of Ramallah. "We must beat off hatreds which are condemned by all religions and democracies."


Chirac, who after a stormy two-day visit to Israel flew by French air force helicopter to the West Bank, spoke against the backdrop of Israeli-Palestinian violence that killed 75 Arabs and Jews last month.


Thousands of Arabs lined the streets of Ramallah to give a tumultuous welcome to Chirac, a vocal advocate of an independent Palestinian state.


Banners on the street and a speech in the assembly by Arafat gave the message that France and the European Union should take a more active part in U.S.-anchored Israeli-PLO peace efforts -- a concept rejected by Israel.


"We need you and we look up to Your Excellency President Chirac to help us in this critical and sensitive stage and we look up to your role ... and to France's role to deepen this just and comprehensive peace between us and our neighbors, Israel and in the region," Arafat said.


Chirac said he was "greatly honored to be the first foreign head of state to be invited to speak before the first assembly to be freely elected by the Palestinian people on its own land."


He urged Palestinian leaders to safeguard democracy.


"I wish to pay tribute to the work you are doing and to your role in building a democratic Palestinian state," he said. "The respect for democratic principles is one of the assets that gives you wide international support and strengthens your partner's confidence in you."


The French leader lashed out at the right-wing policies of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that include expanding Jewish settlement in the West Bank and refusing to relinquish Israel's hold over Arab East Jerusalem.


"As of now, new settlements must stop because continuing the process would seriously impair the likelihood of harmonious coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians," Chirac said.


After his Ramallah address, Chirac was due to fly to the Gaza Strip accompanied by Arafat and then travel on to Jordan.


Chirac's visit to Israel was clouded by his shoving match with Israeli bodyguards during a tour of the Old City of Jerusalem. He also drew right-wing anger in the Jewish state by addressing the Palestinian legislator but not the Israeli parliament.