Sharon must deal with Arafat's authority - Mubarak


Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said

today that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon "must deal with the elected authority" of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat if he is "serious" about seeking peace.

"Sharon can say what he wants about excluding Arafat but I'm telling him that if the (Israelis) are serious in seeking peace, they must deal with the elected authority," Mr Mubarak told reporters during a visit to a new Cairo suburb.

He was speaking hours after a suicide bomb blast killed 17 just outside of Tel Aviv, prompting Mr Sharon to cut short a visit to the United States where he hoped to push Mr Arafat out of the peace process.

"It's the Palestinian people who decide" the fate of their leaders, Mr Mubarak added. He made no mention of the suicide bombing inside Israel.

During his meeting with US President George W. Bush yesterday in Washington, Mr Sharon was said to have presented a peace plan that excluded Mr Arafat from the picture.

The leaders' talks were interrupted by news of the human bombing, which triggered a strong denunciation of the attack from the White House and Mr Sharon's swift return home.

The hardline prime minister is set to meet tonight with his cabinet to decide on reprisals against the Palestinian Authority, and the possibility of expelling Mr Arafat.