Jerusalem, Oct. 27 (Reuters): Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said for the first time in public today that Israel has no plans to kill Palestinian President Yasser Arafat despite the Israeli government’s vow to remove him from power.
Israel’s security cabinet decided in principle last month to “remove” Arafat and Sharon’s deputy Ehud Olmert said killing the 74-year-old symbol of Palestinian nationalism was an option. “I don’t see any plans to kill him although the man is responsible for deaths of hundreds, of thousands of mostly civilians because his strategy is a strategy of terror,” Sharon told a group of European parliamentarians visiting Jerusalem.
Sharon’s statement followed weeks of speculation on how and when Israel might carry out its threat to oust Arafat, which has drawn an international outcry and strong US opposition.
Political sources had said Sharon had ruled out assassinating Arafat, but it was the first time the right-wing Israeli leader has done so publicly.
Israel accuses Arafat of fomenting violence in a three-year-old uprising for independence. Arafat denies the allegation and accuses Sharon of waging of a war to annihilate the Palestinian people.