Arafat asks world to aid Mideast peace
UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat appealed for greater international involvement in the Mideast peace process Sunday in an address before the 56th session of the U.N. General Assembly.
He singled out the United States, Britain, Russia, France, China, Japan and the European Union as countries and alliances he hoped would take a greater role in the process.
The absence of such active participation, he said, would make the situation between Israel and the Palestinians "even more explosive and fragile."
Arafat accused Israel of practicing "state terror" and "ethnic cleansing" against the Palestinians and said an international presence was needed to supervise and implement a cease-fire.
He said Palestinians are observing the cease-fire but that the Israeli government has constantly violated it.
Israel has said it is trying to protect its citizens against what it calls "Palestinian suicide terrorism" and that it makes every effort to avoid civilian casualties when it does need to move troops into tense areas.
Arafat also thanked President Bush for expressing in his address on Saturday a U.S. commitment to the creation of two states -- Israel and Palestine -- as called for by U.N. resolutions.
A Bush administration official said the president still has no plans to meet with Arafat because the White House feels the Palestinian leader has not done enough to fight terrorism.
An aide to Arafat said it deeply injured the Palestinian leader that Bush would not even shake his hand Saturday as the two men dined in the same banquet room. A Bush administration official said Bush and Arafat did not have a chance encounter.
A European diplomat said "it was not useful" for Bush to snub the Palestinian leader.
Earlier Sunday, Arafat met separately with Secretary of State Colin Powell and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
Annan briefed Arafat on discussions he had held with many leaders, including Bush and French President Jacques Chirac, on the Palestinian track in the Middle East peace process.
Arafat gave Annan his assessment of the situation in the Middle East and the plight of the Palestinians -- a message he later delivered to the world body.
Annan also met Sunday with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, European Union diplomatic and security representative Javier Solana and EU foreign ministers to discuss the situation in the Middle East.
Arafat said the number of Israeli settlers has doubled since the start of the peace process, a reflection of what he called Israel's lack of seriousness and commitment to past agreements.
Noncompliance by Israel, he said, was what prompted the 13-month Palestinian Intifada. The uprising has resulted in more than 1,000 deaths, mostly Palestinian.
Israel has said its historic claims to the West Bank and Gaza Strip are no less valid than that of the Palestinians.
Israel has also said the Intifada was launched as a political tool after Palestinians could not achieve what they wanted at the negotiating table.
In his address, Arafat accused Israel of using the "might of the Israeli army, including F-15's, F-16s, Apache helicopters, tanks, missiles, armored vehicles, navy ships and lethal weapons, including the internationally prohibited ones."
He said Israel continues to restrict the movement of people and goods, preventing students and teachers from going to schools, workers from reaching their workplaces -- measures that constitute "a real flagrant violation of basic human rights," he said.
He said the Palestinian economy is devastated and billions of dollars have been lost.
Israel has said travel restrictions have been imposed to prevent violence from spilling into Israeli cities. It has also said thousands of working permits have been issued for Palestinians who seek work in Israel.
Arafat also repeated his call for Israel to withdraw to boundaries before June 1967 and called for Jerusalem to be the Palestinian capital.
Israel considers Jerusalem its capital and has said the city is non-negotiable.
For their part, Arafat said the Palestinians have "fully and positively cooperated with all the international efforts and initiatives," including the Egyptian-Jordanian initiative and the Mitchell Report.
"I pledge my full commitment to the peace process," he said.
The Israeli address to the U.N. General Assembly is scheduled for Thursday.
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