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Arafat condemns stoning of French prime minister
GAZA (CNN) -- Palestinian President Yasser Arafat apologized Saturday for an incident in which students stoned French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin after he called Hezbollah attacks on Israeli troops in south Lebanon "terrorist acts."
Palestinian students pelted Jospin with stones and attacked his car on Saturday after he spoke at Bir Zeit University near Palestinian-ruled Ramallah, in the West Bank, and explained his position on Lebanon. Jospin refused to retract his remarks about the Hezbollah fighters, who students say are fighting Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon.
The students called Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak a terrorist and Jospin his accomplice. "From Bir Zeit to Beirut, we are one people!" they shouted, stoning, kicking and jumping on his car. Jospin was bundled into the car by security personnel and driven away unharmed.
Jospin later went to Gaza where he held talks with Arafat, who condemned the violence and apologized for it.
"Those (protesters) do not represent the Palestinian people and do not represent the students of Bir Zeit University. They only represent the forces of darkness," Arafat told a joint news conference with Jospin.
Jospin's delegation later canceled a visit to Khan Yunis refugee camp in Gaza.
Arafat, asked whether he understood the emotions of the students, said that "the Lebanese people have the right to defend their land."
"We were defending it with them in the year 1982 when Israeli forces entered and seized Beirut," he said.
French President Jacques Chirac's office said in a statement he was shocked by the violence of the protests.
"The president of the republic has let prime minister (Jospin) know he was shocked by the regrettable incidents," a spokesman said.
The statement was seen as an attempt to limit the perceived split in French foreign policy between the premier and Chirac, who ordered Jospin to give him an explanation for his remarks when he returns to France.
Jospin's visit to the West Bank and Gaza was the first by a French prime minister to the Palestinian territories.
Correspondent Rula Amin and Reuters contributed to this report.
Israeli warplanes attack guerrilla positions in Lebanon
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