Arafat accepts the challenge

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Yasser Arafat has one challenger so far for the presidency of the Palestinian Authority. She is Samiha Khalil, a 70-year-old political activist and charity worker from Ramallah, on the West Bank.

Ms Khalil, who wants the Israeli-Palestinian self-rule accord to be scrapped, says she can win the 20 January election despite the fact that Mr Arafat has symbolised the Palestinian struggle for decades.

``People are whispering they are not happy with what is happening on their land,'' she explained, adding: ``It is my conviction that the Oslo accords fall short of achieving the fundamental objectives of our people, that of full sovereignty and independence. We want an independent Palestinian state with real sovereignty, and permanent and comprehensive peace can be achieved when rights are restored.''

Mr Arafat is reported to be happy about the challenge because he wants a genuine contest. ``Arafat does not want the election results to be 99.99 per cent, as is the case with other Arab leaders,'' one PLO official said.

Before her second marriage last Saturday, Tonya Harding said she was planning a more mellow life. The disgraced ice skater wanted to live on a farm and raise a family. Things started well enough: the ceremony, on a yacht in the Willamette River in Oregon, was without incident but the aftermath was no honeymoon.

According to reports from Portland, an amateur photographer identified only as Bob, a wedding guest, snapped a photo and sold it to the Oregonian. Ms Harding was furious, believing the sale would cause the Globe, a national weekly tabloid, to cancel its $10,000 (pounds 6,500) contract with her for rights to her wedding pictures. The Globe decided to proceed, after Bob, Ms Harding, her new husband, Michael Smith, and a Globe photographer met to discuss the situation.

Their talks reportedly broke up with Bob leaving, Ms Harding yelling profanities and Mr Smith jumping into Bob's girlfriend's car, which he said had struck him. Ms Harding gave chase in her car and allegedly rammed the other woman's vehicle. ``She just hit us. Bam!'' said Bob.

No charges have been filed, but for Ms Harding, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to hinder prosecution in the 1994 knee-bashing attack on her skating rival Nancy Kerrigan, the fracas is ``a remembrance I don't want to have of my wedding''.

France, that popular destination of political redundants, has acquired yet another. Prince Norodom Sirivudh, the half-brother of King Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia, flew into Paris last weekend, having chosen exile over trial on charges of plotting to assassinate his country's co-prime minister Hun Sen.

The prince has denied the allegations, but accepted the exile proposal from the King, who said he feared his half-brother might be killed if he stayed home to fight the charges.

Mr Hun Sen and his co-prime minister, Prince Norodom Ranariddh, acceded to King Sihanouk's request that the prince be released into his custody.

Prince Norodom Sirivudh has written to the co-prime ministers to thank them for their clemency and has vowed to keep well out of Cambodian politics.

Leah Rabin plans to write a book about her life with the assassinated Israeli prime minister. ``This is the most important thing to me, to sum up this chapter of my life with Yitzhak, the bitter end and the obvious conclusions,'' she said on Israel army radio.

``It was something I intended to do anyway, even before Yitzhak was murdered,'' Mrs Rabin added. ``I just didn't have the trigger, something to push me especially. Now I have one.''

Since her husband's death on 4 November, Mrs Rabin has been busy answering letters of condolence and attending ceremonies in her husband's memory. Thanks to the Israeli cabinet, she will have an office, a car and a driver for three years to help her promote Rabin's legacy of peace.

Maryann Bird