US Arranges For Arafat's
Exile In Morocco
Special to World Middle East Newsline

The United States has found safe haven for beseiged Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
U.S. officials said the Bush administration has obtained approval from Morocco to provide asylum to Arafat. The officials said that over the past few days U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell contacted Arab and Islamic countries in an effort to end the Israeli takeover of Arafat's headquarters in Ramallah.
"We have found a place for Arafat," a U.S. official said. "The problem is that Arafat doesn't want to leave just yet."
Officials said that one of the obstacles to Arafat's exile is his insistence that he bring with him scores of aides and Palestinian insurgents wanted by Israel. The insurgents include up to 70 Fatah and Hamas agents accused of being responsible for the wave of suicide bombings in Israeli cities.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has refused Arafat's demand to leave with the scores of people trapped in his office and that of Palestinian Authority security chief Col. Jibril Rajoub. Rajoub is believed to be harboring at least 70 Palestinian insurgents in his complex in nearby Betunia.
Overnight Monday, Israel expanded its military operation to other cities in the West Bank. Israeli tanks and troops captured Bethlehem, Kalkilya and Tulkarm with tanks. So far, the military has captured 500 insurgents and a large amount of Palestinian weaponry. The next target in the Israeli military campaign is expected to be the West Bank city of Nablus.
The Palestinians have responded with suicide bombings in Israeli communities. On Sunday, a Palestinian suicide bomber killed 14 Israelis in a restaurant in the northern city of Haifa. Another bomber blew himself up in the West Bank Jewish community of Efrat south of Bethlehem. Three Israelis were injured.
For their part, ministers in Sharon's Cabinet said Israel has not yet decided to exile Arafat. They suggested that the current Israeli military operation in the West Bank would be ended within days. "We know we don't have an unlimited opportunity," Ben-Eliezer said on Monday.
U.S. officials said the effort to find Arafat safe haven is being aided by the European Union. They said such countries as Egypt, Jordan and Tunisia refused to provide Arafat with asylum.
Israel has pledged to the Bush administration not to assassinate Arafat, officials said. They said the administration has not expressed opposition to a widescale military campaign against the PA that will be concluded within days.
But officials said the administration, in fear of a regional war in the Middle East sparked by Hizbullah, has pressed Israel to end its military operation within several days. They said the administration has come under tremendous pressure from Arab allies of the United States as well as from the European Union.
Sen. Joseph Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has called on the United States and EU to send troops to the West Bank and Gaza Strip to implement a ceasefire between Israel and the PA. Biden said Arab allies such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia should contribute troops to the peacekeeping effort.
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