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      UN Sec-Gen Visits Arafat's Grave, Meets Parents of Terrorists

      UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited Israel Sunday, paying tribute to dead PLO chief Yasser Arafat but refusing to meet with Hamas officials.
      By Ezra HaLevi
      First Publish: 3/25/2007, 7:02 PM

      United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited Israel Sunday, paying tribute to dead PLO chief Yasser Arafat but refusing to meet with Hamas officials.

      Ban arrived Saturday and met with Fatah chief and PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday.

      The secretary-general praised Abbas for his faction’s participation in the unity government but refrained from making any commitments. “We will have to wait and see how the new government accepts the international conditions,” he said. "I expect that with this formation of the national unity government, the leaders of this government will abide by the principles laid out by the Quartet,” he said, referring to the requirements set out by Russia, America, the EU and the UN with regard to renouncing terrorism and recognizing the Jewish state.

      PA Information Minister Mustafa Barghouti told an Arabic radio station that Ban’s meeting with Abbas was an official recognition of the Hamas-led PA government. "This government is a single team," Barghouti said. "Whoever meets with one member is meeting with the entire government."

      Earlier Sunday, Ban visited Bethlehem and the Gush Etzion region south of Jerusalem. He said there that the wall being built by Israel does not “serve the peace process between Israel and the Palestinian Authority” and called for its removal.

      Ban later met with the parents of PA Arabs serving time in Israeli prisons for involvement in terrorist activity.

      The secretary-general also visited the grave of Yasser Arafat in Ramallah Sunday. He laid a wreath of white flowers on the site before closing his eyes in meditation. Ban will meet Prime Minister Ehud Olmert Monday and be taken on a tour of the Yad VaShem Holocaust Museum’s Holocaust Art section Monday by government officials.

      This will be Ban's second visit to the museum, as he was taken during a state visit while serving as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of South Korea.