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Arafat Distances Palestinian Cause From Osama Bin-Laden, Al Qaida


In an interview with the London Sunday Times, Yasser Arafat tried to put some space between the Palestinian cause and Al-Qaida and Osama Bin-Laden, claiming that Bin-Laden never did anything for the Palestinians or espoused their cause. However Palestine figures prominently in the rhetoric of Bin Laden, and conversely, pictures of Bin-Laden have figured prominently in Palestinian demonstrations. Israel claims it has evidence of links between Al-Qaida and Palestinian militants in Gaza and the West Bank, but the Palestinians deny it.

Palestinian Women Marching in Support of Osama Bin Laden



Sunday, 15 December,
2002, 12:35 GMT

Bin Laden 'exploits Palestinian cause'

Yasser Arafat

Arafat says he is the first Arab leader to stand
up to Bin Laden

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has accused Osama Bin Laden
of exploiting the Palestinian struggle for an independent state.

In an interview with London's Sunday Times newspaper, Mr Arafat said the leader of the al-Qaeda network was hiding behind the Palestinian cause for his own purposes.

He said he was angry that al-Qaeda had tried to justify atrocities - such as
last month's bombing of an Israeli-owned hotel in Kenya - by claiming that they
were part of a campaign to get Palestinian territories back from Israel.

Earlier this month, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said that al-Qaeda
militants were operating in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon.

Palestinian women march in support of Bin Laden

Israel says al-Qaeda operates in

But Palestinian officials rejected the allegations and later accused the
Israeli secret service, Mossad, of setting up a fake al-Qaeda terrorist cell in

Mr Arafat told the newspaper: "Sharon wants to cover his military attacks
against the Palestinian people with a new face. He knows that there are no
relations between al-Qaeda and Palestine."

He said his movement was against any attack on civilians, including Israelis.

'First to speak out'

Mr Arafat acknowledged that there was sympathy for Bin Laden among young
people in the Palestinian territories, but said this came from despair.

"These kids don't really know who Bin Laden is," Mr Arafat said.

He said he was the first leader in the Arab world to stand up to Bin Laden.

The Palestinian leader also accused Bin Laden of opportunism.

"Why is Bin Laden talking about Palestine now? Bin Laden never, not ever,
stressed this issue. He never helped us. He was working in a completely
different area and against our interests."

"I am telling him directly not to hide behind the Palestinian cause," he

Bethlehem ban

Publication of the Sunday Times' interview came as the Israeli Government
announced it would ban Mr Arafat from travelling to Bethlehem for Christmas
celebrations for the second year running.

The Israeli cabinet, chaired by Mr Sharon, also announced Israeli forces
would remain in Bethlehem throughout the Chrismas period.

Israeli troops reoccupied Bethlehem three weeks ago, and Israel controls road
and airspace throughout the West Bank.

"Israel's behaviour... is stupid and a provocation to the Palestinian people,
as well as being a challenge to international law," said Mr Arafat's top
adviser, Nabil Abu Rudeina.

Mr Arafat has been confined to the West Bank city of Ramallah, north of
Jerusalem, for the past year.

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