Israel raps Arafat over'jihad' call

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

JERUSALEM (Reuter) - Israel yesterday demanded that the PLO chairman, Yasser Arafat, reaffirm his commitment to the peace accord in writing after he allegedly called for a jihad, or holy war, over Jerusalem. One of Mr Arafat's advisers rejected the demand as unnecessary.

In the speech to Muslims in South Africa on 10 May, Mr Arafat called for a jihad over Jerusalem and compared the accord with Israel to an ancient truce among Arabs violated shortly after its signing. He explained shortly after the speech that by jihad he had meant a peaceful crusade. Israel regards the holy city as its capital. The PLO wants to make East Jerusalem the capital of a Palestinian state.

'We are not discussing any timetable for the next phase (of talks) until we see whether the other side can stand behind its commitment,' an Israeli spokesman said.

Ahmed Tibi, an adviser to Mr Arafat on Israeli affairs, told a news conference in Jerusalem yesterday: 'I do not see any need for the statements made by some ministers demanding a written clarification from President Arafat.'