US rewards Arafat with offer of aid

YASSER ARAFAT reassured the United States yesterday there would be no premature declaration of Palestinian statehood and that he would wait until the target date for the completion of the Oslo peace process in May.

The Palestinian leader was speaking to Arab-American fund-raisers and supporters at a brunch near Washington, an event closely modelled on fund- raising events held by Jewish organisations, before talks with US trade officials and the IMF in Washington.

Mr Arafat was believed to have threatened a unilateral declaration of statehood in the event of the collapse of last month's Wye River talks. But yesterday he told his audience, some of whom expressed their impatience for a fully fledged state, that he hoped for the declaration of an independent Palestinian state "when the interim phase will end".

He also announced he had invited Christian leaders, including the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury, to attend festivities for the millennium in Bethlehem, which is under Palestinian jurisdiction.

Mr Arafat's programme of meetings in Washington marks the return to the US capital of the Middle East roadshow, which gears up today with the start of two important international conferences. The theme of one conference will be aid for the Palestinians, while another will deal with the Nazis' Holocaust-era seizures of Jewish art and money.

The conferences come five weeks after Israeli and Palestinian leaders signed the Wye River memorandum at the White House, undertaking to put back on track implementation of the five-year-old Oslo peace accord. President Bill Clinton will formally open the Palestinian donors' conference, which Washington officials are presenting as a by-product of the peace talks.

But the timing is something of a mystery, as the first and only such conference was held five years ago. The US State Department says that it was felt the time was right for another. There is speculation that the US-sponsored attempt to attract more international aid for the Palestinians is a reward to Mr Arafat for stalling on the declaration of Palestinian statehood. The US is expected to double its financial assistance to $150m (pounds 93.7m) annually, although this is paltry compared with the European Union's promised $4bn package.

Representatives from more than 50 countries will attend the second meeting, the follow-up to last year's London conference on Nazi gold. The broader focus of this meeting will include the tracking and restitution of confiscated art and the vexed question of the insurance policies of Holocaust victims.

The timing of the two conferences suggests that the US is trying to be seen as more evenhanded with Israelis and Palestinians. The White House on Friday released the outline itinerary of President Clinton's visit to the region next month, when he will visit Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Gaza to become the first US leader to address the Palestinian assembly.

Israeli warplanes struck suspected guerrilla bases in southern Lebanon for the second consecutive day yesterday to avenge attacks on Israeli outposts, Lebanese security officials said.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Teeth should be brushed twice a day to prevent tooth decay
education
News
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
news
Sport
footballChelsea 6 Maribor 0: Blues warm up for Premier League showdown with stroll in Champions League - but Mourinho is short of strikers
News
Those who were encouraged to walk in a happy manner remembered less negative words
science
Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
News
Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
i100
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

News
There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law
news

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London