Arafat seeks Irish help for peace in Middle East


The Palestinian Authority President has asked the Government to help mobilise international support for the Middle East peace process. Mr Yasser Arafat said it "has been totally frozen because of the decisions" of the Israel Prime Minister, Mr Benjamin Netanyahu.

After a meeting with the Taoiseach at Government Buildings last night, Mr Arafat said he specifically needed Ireland's help in forming "a position in the European Union in our favour.

"We need international support to push forward the peace process and to try to safeguard it." Complimenting Mr Arafat for "holding off on the self-determination of the Palestinian state" until after the Israeli elections later this month, Mr Ahern said the Government wanted to give "increased status" to Palestine and would proceed as soon as possible to establish a development aid office in Ramallah: "We will continue to support your just cause in every way we can."

Mr Ahern added that most of their meeting had covered the situation on the ground in Palestine. They had considered the hardship being endured by the Palestinian people because of the World Bank, sanctions, border problems, and restrictions on access to education.

Mr Ahern said Mr Arafat was "anxious to get on with the implementation phase of the Wye River Agreement. What he has done has been very substantial and others have not followed."

After dinner with the Taoiseach, Mr Arafat travelled to Aras an Uachtarain to meet President McAleese.