Egypt and Saudi Arabia are asking the United States and the European Union help end Israeli blockade on Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in the West Bank town of Ramallah, a Palestinian official said on Wednesday.
Palestinian International Cooperation Minister Nabil Shaath said that intensive contacts are being made with the US and the EU to pressure Israel into allowing Arafat to leave Ramallah for the meeting of the "Jerusalem Council," which is slated for Friday in Morocco.
Israel has been putting Arafat under siege at his Ramallah headquarters since December 3, following a series of suicide bombing attacks carried out against Israel by the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas).
Despite international pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, he refused in one case to allow Arafat to attend the Christmas celebration in Bethlehem, saying the ban will remain in place unless Arafat arrests the assassins of Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze'evi.
Shaath indicated that even if Israel allows Arafat to leave the West Bank and travel abroad, it might decide not to let him return to the Palestinian territories.
"Arafat won't participate in the Jerusalem Council meeting in Morocco, unless there are US and European guarantees to let him freely leave and freely return back to the West Bank or Gaza," said Shaath.
"If Arafat is allowed to leave Ramallah for the meeting in Morocco, there will be also a possibility for him to fly to Europe to meet with European Union's foreign policy chief Javier Solana," added him.
(Xinhua News Agency January 24, 2002)