NEWS BRIEFS

Europe deal grants PA 'world-wide recognition'

Yasser Arafat in late February signed a first-ever co-operation treaty between the Palestinian entity and the EU. The PLO chairman received full diplomatic honours, met European Commission President Jacques Santer in Brussels and had dinner with the bloc's 15 foreign ministers. The deal, the first such international treaty signed by Arafat, would provide the Palestinians with "world-wide recognition", an EU official commented. "This is the Palestinians entry ticket for dealing with the big, wide world," he added. The agreement provides for special preferential access for PA goods on the EU market. The EU is the largest source of foreign funds for the PA, having provided about US$1 billion over the last three years.

June elections for Algeria

In march, Algerian President Liamine Zeroual announced that his government would hold elections on June 5. Some 50,000 people have been killed there over the past five years. Violence erupted after the military-led government outlawed Islamic groups following an election believed to have been won by the largest of them. Some opposition groups are expected to boycott the elections.

Assad kicks out lapsed rejectionists

Participation by historically rejectionist Palestinian groups in recent "national dialogue" talks hosted by the PLO Authority appears to have lost them the support of their host, Syrian President Hafez el-Assad. According to reports in Arab media, the Popular and Democratic Fronts for the Liberation of Palestine have been told to move their headquarters from Damascus to Amman, Jordan. PFLP leader George Habash and DFLP leader Naif Hawatmeh have up to now controlled their groups' activities in the PLO-controlled territories from Syria. Sources said the Syrian leadership has now ordered them to leave.

Weizman in Britain

Israeli President Ezer Weizman, a former RAF fighter pilot, became in late February the first Israeli head of state to be accorded a state visit to Britain. Queen Elizabeth praised Weizman's "personal contribution to the quest for peace", which she said had been "greatly admired by your British friends".

PA "police" in Jerusalem

A secret report recently prepared by Israel's Police Inspector-General has given new insights into PA security service activities in Jerusalem, which are illegal in terms of Israeli law, and contravene signed Israel-Palestinian agreements.
The report said Yasser Arafat's security forces particularly the Preventive Security Service, General Intelligence Service and Force 17 had substantially intensified their operations in Jerusalem. "The Palestinian security agencies - especially the Preventive Security have a broad base of Fatah members which can be activated on command," it stated. "This is a potential reservoir of trouble-makers, likely to engage in intifada-like activities in the eastern part of the city, even without the active backing of the masses. The activity of the Palestinian security agencies in Jerusalem creates a balance of terror in favour of the [Palestinian] Authority and slowly but constantly undermines the foundations of Israeli rule in the city's eastern part."

Arrow launch successful

Israel last month successfully carried out another launch of its Arrow anti-missile missile. The Arrow destroyed a target missile launched off the Israeli coast, the second successful intercept of its kind. Scientists involved explained that the focus this time was not merely to prove the Arrow could intercept and destroy a target missile, but also to test and examine the full integration of the radar and fire control systems. The radar system's job is to detect enemy rockets launched into Israel and to direct each Arrow to its designated targets. The first Arrow system should be deployed towards the end of next year, and a significant anti-missile defence system be in place by the end of the decade.

Pope to visit Lebanon

Pope John Paul II will visit Beirut next month. He was scheduled to visit Lebanon in February 1994, but cancelled the trip after 10 Christian worshippers were killed when a Maronite church was bombed. The main reason cited for the journey is an opportunity for the pope to respond to calls by a synod of Lebanese bishops at the Vatican in 1995 for the withdrawal of Israeli and Syrian forces from Lebanon. The visit to Lebanon will focus attention once again on the Vatican's policy toward the Middle East. Despite a warming toward Israel which resulted in full diplomatic ties three years ago, friction remains over the Vatican's desire for international "open city" status for Jerusalem.

Iran, Syria military ties

Iranian Defence Minister Mohammed Foruzandeh said last month Tehran would help Syria modernise its military technology as part of a defence co-operation agreement. The Tehran Times quoted him as saying Iran and Syria had pledged to support resistance against "Israeli occupation of Arab land". QUOTES TO NOTE: "If anyone thinks the murder of little girls will bring this people to its knees ... break our spirit or that we will relinquish our birthright, holy land and our eternal capital, he does not know the strength that exists in each person standing here around me today and in the entire nation." Netanyahu, at the funeral of one of seven schoolgirls killed by a Jordanian soldier on March 13. (The Jerusalem Post, March 14) "We now have reciprocity. Arafat releases terrorists and so does Israel. Arafat smuggles in weapons and we give him assault rifles ... We have security men in Jerusalem and so do they. We have government offices in Jerusalem and so do they ..." Former Science Minister Benny Begin, who resigned to protest the Hebron agreement. (IMRA, March 2) "If Israel insists on sovereignty over Jerusalem we'll never have peace." Chief PA negotiator Saeb Erekat. (CNN, March 3) "I don't think that one ought to put the Palestinians in the dock and accuse them of not having met their commitments in the Middle East peace process over the last four years. They've met them." US State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns. (New York Daily News, March 6) "Serious decisions on Jerusalem have been taken by the Israeli authorities which have sparked concern in the international community ... [and could] seriously harm the peace process and the spirit of trust that is so necessary for its continuation." Pope John Paul II, addressing pilgrims in St Peter's Square. (Israeli & Global News, March 9) "Not East nor West Jerusalem, the whole of Jerusalem." PA legislative council speaker Abu Ala, on the areas of Jerusalem the PLO expects to be negotiated with Israel. (BBC World Service, February 17) Supposedly not yet under discussion, the issue of Jerusalem now all but tops the Israeli-Arab negotitions agenda

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