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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Israel Blocks Arafat From Summit

JERUSALEM -- Israel said Tuesday that Palestinian President Yasser Arafat had not met its terms for attending an Arab summit, ignoring U.S. pressure to let him go to Beirut to add weight to a Middle East peace initiative.

Although Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon left the door open to a last-minute reprieve that would lift a three-month-old travel ban, Arafat looked unlikely to return to Beirut for the first time since he was forced out during Israel's invasion in 1982.

Sharon would risk the ire of his country's key ally, the United States, by preventing Arafat from attending the two-day summit starting Wednesday. But Arab leaders are likely to endorse a Saudi peace initiative anyway.

A government spokesman said the Israeli Cabinet had no immediate plans to meet to discuss removing the travel ban because it believed Arafat had not done enough to bring about a truce or arrest militants.

"A decision will be made but not right now, not this morning," spokesman Avi Pazner said Tuesday. "Arafat has not done enough, but there is still time. The summit has not yet started."

Violence continued Tuesday. Israeli police said two Palestinians blew themselves up with their own bomb near Jerusalem on the way to an attack. An Israeli also died of wounds received in a Palestinian attack on a bus in December.

At least 1,103 Palestinians and 358 Israelis have been killed in violence since a Palestinian revolt against Israeli occupation began in September 2000 after peace talks stalled.

Arafat has said he hopes to go to Beirut, but aides say he would rather skip the summit than accept Israeli dictates that he regards as unfair. The Palestinian leader would also run the risk of Israel refusing to let him return.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak advised Arafat not to go. "We cannot predict what the Israeli government will do. If I were in his place and they told me I could go [to the summit], I would not go," Mubarak told the Beirut newspaper an-Nahar.

"The Israelis might not allow him to return and they will use any incident as an excuse to destroy the remaining headquarters and the Palestinian Authority will be in exile."

Sharon, who faces pressure from right-wing members of his coalition government not to let Arafat attend the summit, said he regretted promising the Americans he would not harm the Palestinian leader.

"Perhaps my agreement was correct at the beginning, but at a certain stage of the clashes it became an error. I should have said to them [the Americans] I cannot stand by this commitment," Sharon told the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper in an interview.

In another interview indicating a toughening of Sharon's stance, he told the Maariv newspaper: "I should have gone to the Americans and requested his [Arafat's] removal from the area."

Israeli political sources said Qatar's foreign minister had offered to come to Israel to meet Sharon on condition that he could take Arafat to Beirut by helicopter, but Sharon had refused, saying the time was not ripe.

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres reiterated during a trip to China that Arafat could go to Beirut if he agreed to a truce being discussed with U.S. Middle East envoy Anthony Zinni.