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Congressional Mission Cancels Arafat Meeting

A delegation of five members of Congress refused to meet with Yasser Arafat in light of what they called \"evidence beyond a reasonable doubt\" of direct involvement by the PLO in weapons smuggling and terrorism. The representatives said their decision to cancel the meeting was made collectively and unanimously.
First Publish: 1/10/2002, 7:12 PM

A delegation of five members of Congress refused to meet with Yasser Arafat in light of what they called \"evidence beyond a reasonable doubt\" of direct involvement by the PLO in weapons smuggling and terrorism. The representatives said their decision to cancel the meeting was made collectively and unanimously. Speaking in Jerusalem’s King David hotel, the Congressmen said the PA leader had reneged on the fundamental pledge of peace he made to Israel in the Oslo Accords, which provided the basis for US engagement with the Palestine Liberation Organization, previously considered by the United States to be a terrorist organization.

When asked by a CNN interviewer if it would not be more effective to sit with Arafat and express to him American concerns, Congressman Gary Ackerman (D-NY) said that he has taken that approach since the early 80\'s, but the arms shipment has changed things: \"[Arafat was] making statements continuously condemning acts of terrorism as they’ve been occurring. While a relative calm has occurred in the past several days which seems to be a diversion.., a ship filled with 50 tons of smoking guns, under his authority, under his order, under his payment, was coming into the region to continue acts of terrorism. Not only terrorism, but terrorism-plus, because of the kinds of weapons he had just purchased.”

Regarding Arafat\'s role in the arms shipment, Ackerman said, “There is no plausible deniability, [Arafat] has no escape route from the evidence… it is 100% certain, it is beyond a reasonable doubt, that the Chairman himself was involved in some degree of detail - which is quite unusual for a national leader - in the securing of these weapons.” The congressman said that “if Mr. Arafat doesn’t find a way to remedy this situation quickly he will become one of those people who is gone but not forgotten.”

The delegation also includes Representatives Peter Deutsch (D-FL), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Barney Frank (D-MA) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL).

The US administration sent a sharp message to Arafat calling on him to arrest those involved in the arms smuggling affair. The administration’s message makes it clear that Arafat needs to act immediately, even if it means the arrest of members of his own Fatah militia. A senior US official reportedly briefed EU representatives that the PLO spent $20 million on the arms shipment. According to the reports, the US official said that if Arafat was not aware of such a large expenditure from the PA coffers, then he is not even in control of his own authority. He further said that Arafat\'s image stands at an all-time low in the eyes of the US administration.