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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Arafat Offers Invitation for Settlement

JERUSALEM -- Palestinian President Yasser Arafat said in remarks published Sunday he was ready to talk peace with any Israeli leader and vowed to put an end to what he called "terrorist" attacks on Israeli civilians.

Meanwhile, Ariel Sharon held secret talks with three senior members of Arafat's inner circle, the first such meeting since he became Israeli prime minister a year ago, a Palestinian official said Friday.

Arafat, who has been confined to his West Bank office by Israeli tanks and is under international pressure to end militant attacks on Israel, made his remarks in a statement published by the New York Times.

"Palestinians are ready to end the conflict," Arafat said. "We are ready to sit down now with any Israeli leader, regardless of his history, to negotiate freedom for the Palestinians, a complete end of the occupation, security for Israel and creative solutions to the plight of the [Palestinian] refugees while respecting Israel's demographic concerns."

"I condemn the attacks carried out by terrorist groups against Israeli civilians," Arafat said. "These groups do not represent the Palestinian people or their legitimate aspirations for freedom. They are terrorist organizations and I am determined to put an end to their activities."

Arafat is under Israeli and U.S. pressure to end Palestinian attacks on Israel by Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, or PFLP, and the armed wing of his own Fatah faction.

He also faces demands from various Palestinian groups to resist the international demands to clamp down on militants.

In an interview published Friday, Sharon warned that he has not exhausted his repertoire of sanctions against Arafat and that, as a next step, he will ask U.S. President George W. Bush to break off contacts with the Palestinian leader.

Sharon is to hold talks with Bush at the White House next week, their fourth meeting in a year. Bush has yet to invite Arafat, reflecting the continuing U.S. policy tilt in Israel's favor.

Despite Sharon's tough public statements, he met Wednesday with Arafat deputy Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Parliament Speaker Ahmed Qureia and economic adviser Khaled Salam, said a Palestinian official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The meeting took place with Arafat's approval, said the official. Sharon's adviser Raanan Gissin declined comment.

Sharon told the Yediot Ahronot daily that Israel might take further action against Arafat -- but would not kill or expel him.

"I don't think we have exhausted all the pressure," Sharon said. "We promised not to harm Arafat physically. I also did not make it our objective to expel him from here," Sharon said. "But I plan to tell President Bush next week, 'I advise you to ignore Arafat. Boycott him. Don't have any contact with him and don't send him delegations."'

Israel has pushed in the past for Arafat's diplomatic isolation, but has been vague about the final objective, whether it is to force Arafat to crack down on militants or to push him aside as a leader.

Sharon's remarks to Yediot marked the first time he said publicly that he wants Washington to stop dealing with Arafat.

Sharon also appeared unimpressed by Arafat's recent comments on ending the violence. Gissin said Arafat's remarks were a "PR stunt."

"The Palestinians understand they have to speak the American language, but they have to act American too, by fighting terrorism. You can't buy your way out of Ramallah by writing an article," said Gissin. (AP, Reuters)